If a Restaurant Doesn't Have These 2 Things, Don't Eat There Right Now

These safety measures could be instrumental in terms of limiting the spread of COVID during indoor dining.

With winter weather blanketing parts of the U.S. in snow, many restaurants' outdoor dining facilities are closing up shop, leaving customers with two options: taking those meals to go or dining indoors. For those who choose the latter option, a new study suggests that two things in particular could make indoor dining a much safer proposition. Read on to discover what a restaurant needs to keep its customers safe from COVID. And for advice on the nation's leading infectious disease expert, check out why Dr. Fauci Just Said This Is the Only Safe Way to Eat at a Restaurant.

According to a University of Minnesota study published in February in the journal Physics of Fluid, adding preventative measures to a restaurant's setup could limit the transmission of COVID indoors. Specifically, using a predictive model, the researchers found that increasing the filtration capacity of the restaurant's air conditioning could help reduce the amount of circulating virus in the air. Additionally, adding shields underneath the tables at which diners are eating could reduce air currents potentially carrying COVID-infected respiratory droplets throughout the space.

"Our work highlights the need for more preventive measures" to ensure diner safety, study author Jiarong Hong, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering, said in a statement.

That's not the only means by which eating at a restaurant can be made safer, however. Read on to discover what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you do when you're eating away from home. And if you want to ensure you're not sick, check out If You're Over 65, You Could Be Missing This COVID Symptom, Study Says.

Eat outdoors whenever possible.

seniors at restaurant, wearing masks, having wine, and looking at their phones

While the cold weather may make outdoor dining seem like a less appealing prospect than eating indoors, it's worth it to avoid COVID—so head to that heated patio or covered deck.

According to the CDC, you should ideally eat outdoors whenever possible, including in tents with open doors or sides that have been retracted. "You are less likely to get or spread COVID-19 during outdoor activities," the public health agency explains. And for more on where your chances of contracting the virus are high, check out This Is Where You're Most Likely to Catch COVID, New Study Says.

Wear your mask when you're not eating.

woman and man at restaurant wearing masks
Shutterstock/Ercan Mercankaya

While no one would expect you to keep your mask on during your meal, it should cover your mouth and nose any time you're not eating or drinking, the CDC says. The same goes for servers, who should be wearing masks throughout their shift and changing them if they touch them or otherwise get them dirty. And for more mask guidance from the health agency, check out The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

Maintain a distance of at least six feet from other diners.

Four young women sitting in restaurant, wearing face mask on chin.

Now's not the time to socialize with other diners when you're out for a meal. The CDC recommends staying six feet away from anyone who's not a member of your household when you're dining out, whether indoors or outdoors.

In fact, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, says that social distancing is the only way to keep indoor dining safe. "If you do indoor dining, you do it in a spaced way where you don't have people sitting right next to each other," Fauci told Don Lemon during a Feb. 2 CNN interview.

Wash your hands thoroughly.

Close up view man hand gathering clear water pouring from faucet into the human palm, concept of personal hygiene and morning routine, global climate warming and worldwide water crisis problem

Hand hygiene is one of the easiest—and most important—ways to limit COVID transmission, especially in shared spaces, like restaurants. The CDC suggests washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you eat and before you leave the restaurant, or using hand sanitizer made from at least 60 percent alcohol. And for the latest news on COVID delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Keep an eye on your alcohol intake.

close up of bearded white man drinking a glass of beer

There's no denying that alcohol can make people make bad decisions, so if you're eating indoors, the CDC recommends keeping your drinking to a minimum so it doesn't cloud your judgment.

Make your meal a short one.

Couple getting the check at dinner who should pay

Longer exposure to other people—especially when unmasked and indoors—can increase your risk of catching COVID from someone else. That's why the CDC suggests keeping any visit to a restaurant as brief as possible, so don't stick around to chat when your meal is over—and maybe take that dessert to go. And for more on how quickly you could get sick, find out why You Can Catch COVID Faster Than You Think, Virologist Warns.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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