Eating Out during COVID

By: Snehal Shinh

Eating out has become challenging due to the current risk of COVID-19, not to mention the changes in dining now that restaurants are open. Not everyone can afford or know how to cook food themselves, so it’s understandable for many to turn to fast food or restaurants in general. Still, it is important to take precautions when ordering take out or dining in.

While there is no evidence of Coronavirus being spread through food, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), caution should still be in mind. Knowing that there’s no evidence supporting the spread of Covid through food may make it seem pointless to take precautions that may seem overboard, but remembering that there isn’t much information, other than how dangerous it is, about the virus brings reason to the actions. 

When ordering takeout, the real risk comes from the workers who are handling the food rather than the food itself. Unlike living beings, viruses cannot grow inside food, making it safe. Human contact, however, is what creates the slight risk. Limiting the amount of people the food comes in contact with can be done by not using food delivery services like DoorDash or Postmates. However, if that is not possible one can choose contactless delivery to minimize contact. To ensure that what is being consumed is safe, reheating the food at high temperatures, around 165 degrees fahrenheit or higher, will kill any virus particles. In addition to heating the food, transferring the meal onto a plate and disposing of the original container immediately is equally important. Making sure to wash hands for at least twenty seconds before transferring the meal and once again before consumption is always a good habit to make. Once done, disinfect the countertop, table, or any other area the original container may have been on.

As restaurants have all opened up, many Americans have begun to believe that it must be safe enough to dine in, however this is not the case. Mentioned before, the real risk of eating out comes from those who handle the food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have emphasized that activities where people can’t always wear their masks nor be able to practice social distancing are high risk. These activities include eating at restaurants as masks must be completely removed to eat. 

There are many steps that need to be taken for restaurants to be safe for dining in. Out of the many recommendations stated by the CDC for restaurants, enforcing behaviors that reduce spread and a healthy environment is most important for workers. This means that employees must wear face coverings, disinfect surfaces, and have staggered work shifts, among other things.  

With restaurants doing all that they can to keep their employees and customers safe, it’s just as important for the consumers to take responsibility for their own health as well. This means calling ahead of time to find out what precautions are being taken, if they are allowing inside dining or not. As previously mentioned, ordering out is the much safer alternative to eating in a restaurant, but if dining in is the only option, then keep face masks on as much as possible and practice social distancing in any way. While these precautions will keep the public safe, the risk is not eliminated. According to Heathline, outdoor dining is the most reasonable option compared to indoor dining. With outdoor seating, making sure that tables and chairs are six feet apart is achievable. However, this is assuming that consumers will remain respectful of social distancing guidelines. 

Overall, health professionals stress the importance of adhering to social distancing guidelines and calling restaurants before dining in to be aware of their policies. In terms of take out food, both the CDC and the FDA recommend take out orders (preferably contactless) over dining in. Eating at restaurants creates much more risks due to various factors such as lack of enforcing social distance guidelines or improper mask wearing. When choosing to eat in a restaurant, look up coronavirus case statistics in the area and the measures the restaurant is taking and decide whether or not it’s worth the risk.