Don't Do This at a Restaurant, Even If You're Vaccinated, Doctors Warn

There are a few simple things that even vaccinated people can do to reduce COVID risk.

As vaccinations continue to pick up the pace across the U.S., some parts of normal life are starting to return slowly. In some areas, this includes the return of dining out at restaurants, as many local ordinances against indoor dining and capacity rules are lifted. But with the threat of COVID still present, experts warn you still shouldn't linger at your table in a restaurant—even if you're vaccinated, CNN reports. Read on to see what they recommend, and for more on where you still shouldn't go after you get your shots, check out Dr. Fauci Just Said to Avoid This One Place, Even If You're Vaccinated.

Spending too much time at your table is a bad idea.

woman and man at restaurant wearing masks
Shutterstock/Ercan Mercankaya

No one can be faulted for wanting to savor every minute sitting down at your favorite restaurant, especially after it's likely been a while since the last time you were able to enjoy a meal out. But according to experts, one of the safest things you can do is keep your visit as quick as possible.

"If you're going to be in very close proximity to other people and there are lots of diners packed together, that's when I would try to limit the time as much as possible," Leana Wen, MD, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, told CNN. In most cases, you can do this by sticking to just one course and looking at a menu beforehand so you know exactly what you'd like to order when you are seated. And for more up-to-date COVID information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Try to sit at least six feet away from other diners.

A young woman eating at a restaurant while socially distanced from other customers

Even if you've already been vaccinated, stepping out to eat in public also means you're stepping into a space where there may be people who are still susceptible to the virus. And even though you may be protected from becoming seriously ill with COVID, there's still a chance you could be contagious and "may potentially expose someone else to illness, who may end up getting a serious disease," Ada Stewart, MD, a family physician with Cooperative Health in Columbia, South Carolina, and the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told CNN.

Stewart says this makes the risk levels of someone eating indoors the same for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, making it important to try to get at least six feet between you and other diners and wear your mask whenever you're not eating for drinking. "You still have to be very careful with being in these areas. You're in a crowd, and you don't know the status of many of these individuals," he added. And for more on where officials say you shouldn't go, check out The CDC Is Warning You to Avoid This One Place, Even If You're Vaccinated.

Try to get a table outdoors.

Group of friends, people eating outdoors
lisegagne / Getty Images

With spring in full swing, some of the outdoor seating options that were too chilly for the colder months are quickly becoming prime real estate for a meal out on the town. They also happen to be a much safer alternative to dining indoors since ventilation decreases the chances you'll expose others to your exhaled droplets or catch someone else's, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines say.

However, it's important to point out that while small enclosed dining pods such as cabins, tents, or domes may protect you from the elements, they can also put you and anyone you're eating with in danger of exposure. CDC guidelines say that fully vaccinated groups are at low risk in this kind of situation. Still, if your table is mixing people from different households who aren't vaccinated, you should try to avoid these kinds of seating setups.

If your party is fully vaccinated, you don't need to limit your time as much.

senior customer while waiter taking order at restaurant amid covid, both are wearing masks
FG Trade / iStock

The highly effective vaccines that have been rolled out mean that your risk of catching COVID is greatly reduced once you've received your shots. Wen tells CNN that if you and your dining partners are fully vaccinated and "can be separated from others by at least six feet … I wouldn't have a limitation to that time period," stressing that your full party needs to be immunized for this to be true.

But if you're eating out with anyone who hasn't gotten all of the required doses yet, there are still a few other red flags you can look for to avoid a potentially risky situation while you're grabbing a bite. The CDC's guidelines warn against "eating inside restaurants that are poorly ventilated, where social distancing is not possible, servers and staff do not wear masks, and diners do not wear masks when not actively eating or drinking," and to avoid going inside if you spot any of these. And for more on how to prepare for your shots, check out Don't Do This the Night Before Your Vaccine Appointment, Experts Say.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under