There are a number of risk factors for contracting the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19, and the CDC has issued a warning about one of them in its latest advisory. As it turns out, a large number of people who eventually contract COVID-19 had one particular activity in common before showing symptoms: they all went to restaurants within two weeks of developing the illness.
The CDC published its findings on its website this past Friday, stating that not only is being in close contact with a COVID-19 patient a big common factor linking cases, but also having been at a restaurant or bar. According to the study, the CDC found that those who develop symptoms of COVID-19 and ultimately test positive for the respiratory disease were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant compared to those who aren’t sick.
The public health agency points out that the nature of restaurants and bars makes it difficult to protect one’s self against the virus — you can’t eat food while wearing a mask, of course. As well, many restaurants struggle to adequately social distance customers; even if tables are spaced apart, people must walk past others to get to their tables.
In the study, the CDC explains:
Eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Efforts to reduce possible exposures where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, such as when eating and drinking, should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.
As well, the CDC notes that the airflow in restaurants, location of air vents, and intensity of airflow in these locations may help transmit the virus to patrons even if they’re taking steps to socially distance. Though similar issues may be experienced in other public places, the CDC points out that bars, coffee shops, and restaurants are unique in that masks cannot be worn the entire time, making them particularly risky.