(CNN) – As restaurants and bars reopen to the public, it is important to realize that eating out will increase your risk of exposure to the new coronavirus.
It is almost impossible in these two situations to take two of the most important public health measures to reduce diseases to a minimum: First, it is difficult to eat or drink while wearing a face mask. Second, social spacing is difficult in cramped spaces usually filled with consecutive seats and servers weaving between busy tables throughout the evening.
So, what should you be looking for, and how can you and the restaurant reduce risk? Here are answers to some common questions.
How far should tables and bar stools be far from each other?
There is nothing magical about six feet tall, which is the number we often hear in official guidance from government agencies. I would like to consider the minimum distance required for safe spacing.
The “six-foot” rule is based on old data about the distance drops that can spread respiratory viruses. These drops tend to settle out of the air within six feet, but that’s not always the case. Aerosols can spread the virus over greater distances, although there are still some doubts about the spread of this spread. Sneezing or running particles can travel up to 30 feet.
It has been shown that speaking alone generates respiratory drops that can be contagious.
If there is a fan or stream created in an enclosed space like a restaurant, then the particles will also travel further. This was shown in a sheet from China: People were injured in a restaurant in the wind direction by an infected person even though the distance was greater than six feet.
The closer the distance and the greater the exposure of a person to an infectious person, the greater the risk.
If the servers are wearing masks, is this enough?
If the servers wear masks, this will provide a layer of protection, but customers who eat and talk can spread the virus.
One way to mitigate this risk is in this incomplete state, at least from a public health point of view, in the presence of tables surrounded by protective barriers, such as pane glass or screens, or placing tables in separate rooms with lockable doors. Some states encourage restaurants to limit each table to only one server serving everything.
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, says the restaurant industry faces a “difficult path” in recovering from the epidemic. He told CNN Bobby Harlow that returning to safe food “would not be an instant light switch.”
Restaurants can also check guests before they enter, either through temperature tests or questions about symptoms and their close contacts with anyone recently diagnosed with Covid-19. It’s controversial, but restaurants in California have tried it. Washington State attempted to require restaurants to record visitors’ contact information in the event of an outbreak, but only withdrew to recommend it.
Easy to check employees. In fact, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that restaurants examine staff before reopening them. But although checking staff for a possible infection can reduce the risk, it is important to remember that people can be infectious six days before they develop symptoms. This is why masks, eye protection, social distance, and hand hygiene are crucial measures to prevent infection.
Should I order disposable utensils and wipe everything?
Regular washing of dishes, cups and utensils, washing of napkins and tablecloths, the virus will be disrupted. No need for consumables here.
The table should also be cleaned and disinfected between uses and marked as sterile.
Lists are more problematic, depending on the material. Plastic rolls can be disinfected. Disposable menus will be more perfect. Remember, even if someone touches a surface infected with an infectious virus, as long as they do not touch their mouth, nose, or eye, they must be safe. So, when in doubt, wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer.
Can I get the virus from food from the kitchen?
The risk of developing new coronavirus from food is very low.
This is a respiratory virus whose primary pattern of infection is the access to the upper or lower respiratory tract through drops or sprays entering your mouth, nose, or eyes. He needs to enter the respiratory system to cause infection, and he cannot do it through the stomach or intestine.
Also, the virus is not very stable in the environment. Studies have shown that he loses half of his viral focus after less than an hour on copper, three and a half hours on cardboard, and less than seven hours on plastic. If the food is contaminated during preparation, the cooking temperature may disrupt much, if not all, of the virus.
Using masks and maintaining good hand hygiene by food processors should greatly reduce the risk of food contamination.
Is sitting outside or driving in a car safer?
Vulnerable people may want to pass dining options and focus on receiving, or perhaps outside eating if conditions are right.
Pop-up or executing windows are probably the most secure; Transient interaction with one individual when everyone wears masks is a less dangerous condition.
In general, eating out is safer than eating out indoors as everything else is on an uncomplicated day due to the larger air volume. Maintaining eye protection with glasses and the use of an intermittent mask between bites and blades reduces risk.
Thomas A. Rousseau is Professor and Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine at Buffalo University, State University of New York.