CDC report: Dining out increases risk of contracting coronavirus more than other activities

Dining out is one of the riskiest possible activities during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, citing the fact that masks are not used while people are eating and drinking.

CDC officials interviewed about 314 people who experienced symptoms of the virus and got tests, about half of whom were positive. Both the positive and the negative subjects said they had engaged in activities such as attending church and in-person shopping.

However, people who tested positive were about twice as likely than those who tested negative to say they had dined at a restaurant. People who tested positive but could not identify a specific occasion when they were exposed to the virus were also more likely to have recently visited a bar or coffee shop.

“Eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the report states. “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.”

With every state in some form of reopening, numerous localities and states are currently resuming dine-in services. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Wednesday that reduced-capacity indoor dining can begin Sept. 30 in New York City.

Cuomo said bar service will remain unavailable and that temperature checks will be required for all dine-in customers. Most restaurants in the state have already reopened for some indoor dining.

“If people are going to eat out, they need to be thoughtful about how they’re going to do it,” study co-author Todd Rice told NBC News.

“Even if I’m sitting at a table and the food hasn’t arrived yet, I still wear a mask. I won’t sit at a table that’s next to somebody else,” added Rice, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In Nashville, where Rice lives, restaurants have reopened at 50 percent capacity.

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