How bars and restaurants should adapt to the coronavirus

How bars and restaurants should adapt to the coronavirus
A concession worker delivers popcorn to a car at the Sauerbeck Family Drive-In on May 25, 2020 in La Grange, Kentucky. The concession stand is not open to customers, but you can place an order online and it will be delivered to your vehicle.Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • As restaurants and bars reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued non-binding guidance for how to dine out, while minimizing infection risk.
  • The CDC says the safest way to eat out is to get delivery or takeout.
  • If you decide to dine on-site at a restaurant or bar, it's best to sit outdoors, and keep a six-foot distance from others at all times.

As bars and restaurants around the country begin reopening to customers during the coronavirus pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued some non-binding guidance for how best to stay healthy when dining out.

"The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread," the CDC said, referring to the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

If you do venture out, there are different levels of risk to keep in mind. Some of the most important factors to consider are how long your interactions with other people will last, and whether they'll occur indoors or outside.

"Outdoors, there's infinite dilution ventilation," Dr. Don Milton, a virologist and environmental health professor at the University of Maryland, who studies how people catch and transmit viruses, previously told Insider.

Milton maintains that "more distance is better," but says even being outdoors isn't perfectly safe.


"You can still have to breathe, and be downwind of somebody," he said.

Still, there are a few simple ways to greatly lower your odds of infection when dining out. Here's what the CDC recommends:

How bars and restaurants should adapt to the coronavirus
Business Insider

It's unlikely that you'll catch the virus from eating contaminated food, even if a sick server or cook were to spit or cough directly onto a cold meal.

"It's a highly theoretical possibility that is extremely unlikely," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told Insider.


Schaffner says there just isn't any good evidence that viruses like COVID-19 can be foodborne, because "they don't find the appropriate receptor sites down in the intestinal tract."

"It's so unlikely that there isn't a single scientist, I think, anywhere in the world that's investigating potential foodborne transmission of COVID-19," he said.

Instead, we should be more cautious about getting close to other people when dining out, and we should be careful not to touch our own face, where viruses can enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth.

"COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze," the CDC said.

For those reasons, the agency recommends frequent handwashing, staying home when sick, as well as environmental cleaning and disinfection to prevent virus transmission.


The most important and helpful way to keep yourself and others illness-free when dining out is to keep your distance from others, as much as possible, and keep your dining parties small.

Staying six feet away from other people while out and about greatly minimizes the chances that you'll come in contact with their respiratory excretions, if they are sick, or that you'll infect other vulnerable people, if you unknowingly have the virus. By keeping a good distance from each other, we all help prevent the virus from spreading further from infected people to the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

"The virus needs people to transmit between," Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for COVID-19, said during a press conference earlier this month. "If people are in close contact with one another and you have an infected person, it will transmit to another person through these respiratory droplets."

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