Would You Eat Indoors at a Restaurant? 5 Health Experts Answer
By Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Kathleen C. Brown, Ryan Huerto, Sue Mattison and Thomas A. Russo
Earlier this fall, many of the nation's restaurants opened their doors to patrons to eat inside, especially as the weather turned cold in places. Now, as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, some cities and towns have banned indoor dining while others have permitted it with restrictions. Still other geographies have no bans at all.
The restaurant and hospitality industry has reacted strongly, filing lawsuits challenging indoor dining bans and, in New York state, pointing to data that showed restaurants and bars accounted for only 1.4% of cases there – far lower compared with private gatherings.
We asked five health professionals if they would dine indoors at a restaurant. Four said no – and one had a surprising answer.
The Conversation / CC BY
Not an Option
Dr. Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Virgina
No. March 12, 2020 was the last day I ate indoors at a restaurant. At the time, there was mild apprehension – but much changed that week. The COVID-19 pandemic altered many aspects of "normalcy," and for me eating inside at a restaurant is one of those activities. I loved eating out and typically would eat out three times a week (sometimes more!). But understanding how the COVID-19 infection is transmitted, I feel that being inside without a mask on – even just to eat – is not an option for me. I strongly believe that we need to support our community through these challenging times, so we still get curbside pickup or delivery from our favorite local restaurants at least three times a week – sometimes more! – but it will be a while before I'm back inside. When I do return I'm definitely getting dessert.
Dr. Thomas A. Russo, Chief of Infectious Disease Division, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo
No. And it's been "no" right from the beginning.
We have a little more information now, but what I said in the spring hasn't really changed. The greatest risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 is being indoors with people who aren't using masks at all times. The concern isn't just big respiratory droplets when close to someone talking; it's also the tiny aerosols that linger in the air.
Making it even riskier is the generally poor ventilation in many restaurants. The key differences between indoor dining and shopping in a big box store or grocery store are: 1) big stores have more ventilation and greater air space; 2) everyone can wear a mask at all times; 3) you're not fixed in space, so if you see someone who just has a bandanna or their mask drops down below their nose, you can steer clear of them; and 4) it should take less time than dinner out. At a restaurant, you're stuck at that table. If a party near you is having an animated conversation, they could be generating a lot of respiratory secretions.
Some interesting studies have looked at the airflow and air currents in restaurants in relation to where people became infected. In one, a person was 20 feet away from the source for only about 5 minutes, but the person was directly in the airflow and became infected. It's a reminder of what we've been saying – there's nothing magical about 6 feet. The high degree of community disease in the U.S. right now increases the likelihood that another diner in the restaurant is infected. If you are tired of cooking and need a break, takeout is the way to go.
Careful Mixed With Trust
Sue Mattison, Provost and Professor in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Drake University
Yes. As an epidemiologist, my response may seem surprising or hypocritical: I do eat at local restaurants, but only because in April, like more than 17 million Americans since that time, I tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered. According to the latest evidence, I believe I have immunity for now, and perhaps longer. But I am not pushing my luck.
I have my own list of four restaurants where I eat. I trust these restaurants because each has drastically reduced their number of tables and spaced them at least 6 feet apart, and everyone inside is diligent about wearing a mask. My husband and I also order takeout a lot. It is important to reiterate, however, that evidence shows restaurants are a significant source of infection, and those who have not recovered from COVID-19 should refrain from eating at restaurants until the community gets a better handle on the spread of infection.
Dr. Ryan Huerto, Family Medicine Physician, Health Services Researcher and Clinical Lecturer, University of Michigan
No. While I understand many factors contribute to indoor dining, such as the mental health toll of social isolation, the opportunity to support small businesses and cold weather, I strongly recommend against indoor dining.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 from indoor activities is far greater than from physically distanced outdoor activities. The recent spike in COVID-19 infections, deaths and ICU bed shortages is likely linked to indoor gatherings during Thanksgiving.
On Dec. 22, 201,674 infections and 3,239 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported. This death toll is equivalent to approximately 20 Boeing 737 aircrafts crashing in a single day.
Even with a COVID-19 vaccine approved, staying home, physically distancing, wearing a mask and good hand hygiene are as important as ever. Think of these as short-term sacrifices to help protect your friends, family, neighbors and essential workers.
Instead of dining in, please consider exponentially safer alternatives such as ordering delivery or curbside pickup.
Restaurants Pose Big Risk
Kathleen C. Brown, Associate Professor of Practice and MPH Program Director, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, University of Tennessee
No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that patients testing positive were twice as likely to have eaten in a restaurant than those testing negative in the 14 days preceding their test. I regularly get takeout but do not eat in restaurants.
What I cannot control poses a risk. I have very open and honest conversations with family and friends about where we have been and who we have been with. From there, our risk is pretty clear but still not at zero. The more people I come into contact with, the greater the risk.
In a restaurant, I am not able to assess the risk posed by other patrons or the staff. Each person in that restaurant has a network of others that, taken together, increases my risk of contracting COVID-19. Currently, Tennessee, where I live, is the second-leading state for cases per 100,000, which means community spread is high.
In plain language, that means there is an increased likelihood that I may come into contact with someone who is infectious – symptomatic or not – if I eat inside a restaurant. I will continue to pick up my takeout for now.
Disclosure Statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
- How to Lower Your Coronavirus Risk While Eating Out: Restaurant ... ›
- How to Prevent Coronavirus From Spreading Indoors - EcoWatch ›
- New Clues Help Monarch Butterfly Conservation Efforts - EcoWatch ›
- Monarch Butterflies Will Be Protected Under Historic Deal - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.
- Remarkable Drop in Colorado River Water Use Sign of Climate ... ›
- California Faces a Future of Extreme Weather - EcoWatch ›
Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
- 14 Countries Commit to Ocean Sustainability Initiative - EcoWatch ›
- These 11 Innovations Are Protecting Ocean Life - EcoWatch ›
- How Innovation Is Driving the Blue Economy - EcoWatch ›