Editor’s note: During the coronavirus pandemic there are few activities that do not carry risks, but there are ways to mitigate them. People who are already fully vaccinated, of course, have a much lower risk of catching and transmitting the coronavirus than those who have not yet been vaccinated. CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen advises that you keep this in mind when making decisions about what to do.
(CNN) — As the percentage of the vaccinated population increases, perhaps you are wondering if it is finally time to enjoy a meal that you have not made at home or bought to go.
Eating and drinking indoors in restaurants and bars is riskier than elsewhere for a few reasons, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On the one hand, there are people from different homes gathered in the same space. To this is added that to eat and drink you need to take off your mask.
“You still have to be very careful about being in these areas,” said Dr. Ada Stewart, a family physician at Cooperative Health in Columbia, South Carolina, and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “You’re in a crowd and you don’t know the status of many of those people,” he explained.
What should you do before arriving at the restaurant?
Due to the way the restaurants are arranged, it can be difficult to maintain social distancing. And because restaurants can be noisy at times, people may speak louder and louder, which could increase the possibility of spreading the coronavirus through respiratory droplets.
Depending on the ventilation flow of a restaurant, respiratory droplets and potentially coronavirus-laden air can accumulate or spread beyond two meters.
With these risks in mind, the CDC guidelines for eating inside restaurant areas are the same for people who have been vaccinated and those who have not.
If you’re fully vaccinated and infected, you’re not likely to get sick with symptoms, Stewart said. However, “you can potentially expose someone else to the disease, people who may end up with a serious condition,” he explained.
If you plan to eat out, first check if the restaurant you chose meets the prevention measures recommended by the CDC. You can see this on the restaurant’s website or call and ask.
Restaurants that reduce risks, for example, are those that have space to sit outside and keep your distance, those in which both employees and customers wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking, and those that have their menu available online.
Eating and drinking in the outer space of an establishment is safer, according to the CDC, since in that case the air or respiratory droplets potentially loaded with coronavirus would not be circulating through an enclosed space.
Other tips to make your time at the restaurant safer
Limit your alcohol consumption so that you can make wise decisions. If possible, ask for condiments that come in individual packages, including salt, pepper, and ketchup. And don’t share food.
Since the risk of contagion increases the longer you are in a place, limit how long you will spend in the restaurant, the CDC suggests. “If you’re going to be very close to other people and there are a lot of diners together, that’s when I would try to limit the time as much as possible,” Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency physician and visiting professor, told CNN. of Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Other things you can do to minimize the time you spend in the restaurant is to order in advance and not order appetizers or more than one dish.
However, if you are fully vaccinated, “you can stay at least two meters apart from others and you are with someone who is also fully vaccinated,” Wen said, “I would not limit the time.” The people you come across should also be fully vaccinated.
All people should cover their coughs and sneezes, and wash their hands frequently.