DETROIT – Restaurants have been incredibly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many struggling to survive with limited capacities and outdoor seating.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is raising concerns about the safety of dining out -- especially for those eating indoors.
New research from the CDC looked at hundreds of people with COVID-19 symptoms and found those that tested positive were about "twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant” in the two weeks before they got sick.
The study did not differentiate between indoor and outdoor seating, but experts claim eating indoors is inherently more risky. When it comes to eating indoors, air flow is critical since customers cannot wear masks while eating and drinking.
“In many restaurants, you might have air conditioning that’s only recirculating air and no filtration,” said Dr. Joseph Allen with the Harvard School of Public Health. “That will allow a build-up of airborne viral particles.”
The key is circulating in fresh air from the outside and ensuring that air is not just blowing in one direction, potentially transmitting particles from an infected person to a table down wind.
With cold weather soon to limit outdoor options, it’s another challenge for restaurants struggling to survive.
Researchers said it’s possible that people were more likely to eat out were also more likely to engage in other activities that increased their risk of exposure. The study tried to control for some of those factors, but couldn’t control all of them.