Is it safe to go to restaurants in a pandemic? Your guide

Editor’s Note – During the Covid-19 pandemic, there is little risk-free activity, but there are ways to mitigate the risk. Fully vaccinated people have, of course, a much lower risk of coronavirus infection and spread than unvaccinated people. CNN Medical Analyst, Ph.D. Leana Wen, advises that you approach your decisions about activities with this in mind.

(CNN) – As the percentage of the vaccinated population increases, you may be wondering if it’s finally time to enjoy a meal that isn’t homemade or that is taken in food.

Dining and drinking indoors in restaurants and bars are more risky than some other places for several reasons, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Not only do people from different households gather in the same space, but you also have to take a mask to eat and drink.

Above, people eat indoors while indoor dining continues to open in New York City on March 24th. Physical distance, obstacles, and good ventilation are several ways to reduce the risk of Covid-19.


“You still have to be very careful about being in those areas,” said Dr. Ada Stewart, a family physician from Cooperative Health, Columbia, South Carolina, and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “You’re in a hurry and you don’t know the status of many of these individuals.”

Due to the restaurant layout, maintaining social distancing can be difficult. And because restaurants can be noisy, people could talk louder and louder, which could increase the chance of the coronavirus spreading through the respiratory system. Depending on the ventilation flow in the restaurant, respiratory droplets and air potentially loaded with coronavirus can accumulate or expand over 6 feet.

Given these risks, the CDC’s guidelines for dining in indoor restaurants are the same for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

If you are fully vaccinated and become infected, you are unlikely to get Covid-19 symptoms, Stewart said. But you “could potentially expose someone to illness, who could end up getting a serious illness.”

If you plan to eat out, first make sure the restaurant adheres to the CDC’s recommended prevention measures. You can look at the restaurant’s website or call the company and ask. Risk-reducing restaurants include facilities that have remote outdoor seating; let both staff and guests wear masks when not eating or drinking; and make their menu available online.

Eating and drinking in the open space of the institution is safer, says the CDC, because air or air droplets potentially loaded with coronavirus would not circulate indoors.

Limit alcohol consumption so you can make proper judgments. Ask for individually wrapped spices – including salt, pepper and ketchup – if possible, and do not share food. As the risk of infection increases the longer you stay in an area, limit your time in the restaurant, the CDC suggested.

“If you’re going to be close to other people and if a lot of snacks are packed, then I’d try to limit my time as much as possible,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at George Washington University at the Milken School of Public Health.

Other things you can do to minimize time spent in a restaurant include pre-ordering and not ordering appetizers or multiple meals.

However, if you are fully vaccinated and “you can be separated from others by at least 6 feet and if you have dinner with someone who is also fully vaccinated,” Wen said, “I would have no limit on that time period.” Whoever you dine with should also be fully vaccinated.

Everyone should cover coughing and sneezing and practice washing your hands often.

Picture above: Above, people are enjoying lunch at the Grand Central Market, when the closed table reopens in Los Angeles on March 15th.