New CDC Report Links COVID-19 Cases With Dining at Restaurants

click to enlarge A server at a restaurant at the Pearl development takes an order from diners earlier this summer. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
A server at a restaurant at the Pearl development takes an order from diners earlier this summer.

Thinking of going out to eat during the pandemic?

According to a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults over the age of 18 who tested positive for the coronavirus are “twice as likely” to have dined at a restaurant two weeks before reporting symptoms, CNN reports.

The study used data from 314 adults throughout 10 states who experienced COVID-19 symptoms in July. Of those adults, 154 tested positive, and 160 came back negative.

Patients were asked about their mask-wearing habits, as well as their daily activities, like going to the gym or grocery shopping. Though there were few differences between the positive and negative sets, one thing stuck out: those who tested positive were more likely to have dined at a restaurant 14 days prior to reporting symptoms. 

“In addition to dining at a restaurant, case-patients were more likely to report going to a bar/coffee shop, but only when the analysis was restricted to participants without close contact with persons with known COVID-19 before illness onset,” the study reads. 

The data also revealed that of the adults who tested positive, 42% said they had been in “close contact” with someone who had coronavirus. Just 14% of those with negative cases had reported being in close contact with a positive case, 51% of which were family members. 

Most of the adults used in the study — 71% of those with COVID-19 and 74% of those without — said they “always” wear a face mask in public. 

In June, four restaurants and bars in New Braunfels and Gruene announced they'd closed for deep cleaning after employees tested positive for COVID-19. That came days after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott moved the state into its third reopening phase, allowing virtually any kind of business to operate at 50% capacity.

Abbott has since throttled back the reopening, shuttering bars and eventually issuing a statewide mask order.

Even so, some San Antonio restaurants, including Empty Stomach group's Barbaro and Hot Joy, temporarily closed as cases spiked during the summer.

Researchers wrote that exposure in restaurants has been linked to air circulation. 

“Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance,” the researchers wrote. 

The CDC labels dining out at restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating where capacity has not been reduced and tables are not spaced six feet apart as being the highest risk to contract or expose others to the coronavirus, as eating and drinking with a mask on is, well, impossible. Dining in or on patios, even where some precautionary measures are being enforced, still pose a threat for those dining and service industry employees. 

The lowest risk is, of course, ordering takeout, using drive-thru services or curbside pick-up.

The SA Current's Sanford Nowlin also contributed to this report.

This article first appeared in the Detroit Metro Times, an affiliated publication.

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