Dr. Fauci Suggests not Rushing to Dine-in at a Restaurant
Dr. Fauci, a top infectious disease specialist, has been absent from the spotlight since he criticized the President’s handling of COVID-19 in April. He was just calling it as he sees it. The President’s distain is all the more reason to listen to this doctor. Dr. Fauci recently reminded the public that COVID-19 is still alive and well. He calls it his “worse nightmare.” I laughed when I saw this because a friend and I were discussing COVID-19. She started out saying she felt like she was dreaming and COVID-19 wasn’t real, but then we said almost in unison, “No COVID-19 is a NIGHTMARE!” But this is no laughing matter. 20,000 Americans per day test positive for COVID-19 infection and we have the dubious distinction of having the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the world. Dr. Fauci notes that in a short period of time this virus has “devastated the world.” He cautions us to ease back into life as we know it including restaurants, salons, beaches, churches…….. I talked about the churches opening in a recent blog and how to do that safely. Now it is time to talk about restaurants.
Summertime – Cook Less, Dine at a Restaurant?
It is summer time and time to wind down- enjoy more, cook less. As the weather started getting warmer it made me think about barbecue and of course how COVID-19 was going to put a damper on sitting down with a group of friends at a good BBQ place. One of the best barbecue spots in the Nation, Cozy Corner in Memphis started floating through my mind. Soul Food Scholar, Adrian Miller, hipped me to this spot. When you go online to view their menu, this is what you see:
COVID-19 Update: We are still open, but with adjusted hours! Cozy Corner is here to help provide good, delicious meals during this challenging time, and the health, safety, and overall well-being of our family, and yours, is always our top priority. We have adjusted our hours of operation and are offering food on a stop-and grab basis only. Stop and grab only, no dine in
Like many other eating establishments that had a thirst to survive during the pandemic, Cozy Corner continued to handle their business curbside. It is estimated that 1 in 4 restaurants won’t be back when states start opening up again. The reason why is obvious when you review the statistics. The National Restaurant Association reported that their members lost $30 Billion and $50 Billion in March and April respectively.
Those that survived this first wave of COVID-19 have now been given the green light to open, but on a limited scale. We know that COVID-19 is not transmitted through food, but hard surfaces in restaurants can be contaminated. Before you run to your favorite restaurant, consider a couple of studies that have talked about the spread of COVID-19 in restaurant settings.
A Reminder About COVID-19
Before delving into the studies, let’s just do a quick refresher on COVID-19. The coronavirus is a respiratory virus, it has an affinity for the lungs. It gets inhaled primarily through nose, but also can enter through the mouth or eyes. Then it goes to work to wreak havoc in your body. It is estimated that one infected person can spread the virus to 2-3 people and those 2-3 people pass it on to 2-3 more people and so on. That is how we have reached over 2 million cases, and almost 120,000 deaths. This virus does not discriminate. This virus doesn’t care where you were born, how old you are, how much money you have, who you choose to love, or who you vote for as president. However, in the United States African Americans have the highest death rate. Why do you think this is?
What do Restaurant Studies Show?
Here is a restaurant case study from CDC. This is a real life example reported in China, but it could have been anywhere in the world. The layout is depicted on the diagram below. Family A had traveled from a COVID-19 infected part of China and went to lunch at a restaurant that didn’t have any windows. There were two other families ( B and C) at tables nearby, as well as some other diners and 8 workers.
Family member A1, apparently did not have any symptoms during the lunch. However, A1 subsequently developed symptoms. Two weeks later 9 other people that were there that day became infected (circled in red on the diagram). A1 was likely pre-symptomatic and was the person that started the ball rolling. The other people that were infected, some as far as 15 feet away were thought to be infected by the poor ventilation system in the restaurant that helped the droplets spread further than usual. None of the workers were infected.
The second study is an experimental setting at a restaurant that simulated how the COVID-19 virus might spread at a buffet. One of the participants was “infected” with a paint that was invisible to the naked eye but highlighted when a black light was used. The infective dose was greater than would be anticipated by droplets from a cough. Review this video demonstrating the findings of the black light video study. What it showed is that all 10 people lit up when the black light was turned on. “Virus” showed up around the faces, especially near mouth of participants, buffet table utensils, etc.
Still Considering Dining in?
Just need to get some new scenery and can’t resist the friends’ request to dine at your favorite restaurant? The CDC has provided some guidance to restaurants. Read the recommendations so you can see what they are recommending to keep people safe. There are a few things for you, your family, and friends to consider before finalizing plans to connect at a restaurant. Namely, if you are 65+ years of age and /or have chronic medical conditions really think twice about dining in. Certainly if you are sick with fever, cough, or shortness of breath, DON’T go to a restaurant! If these things don’t apply and you want to venture out then think about some of the suggestions below.
Check for these things to determine if you want to sit down in a restaurant to have dinner:
- Easily visible signage reminding people of the safe practices
- Keep your parties small. Remember loud talking can increase droplet output
- No long waiting lines. If there is a wait, wait in your car
- Tables spaced out adequately to facilitate physical distancing (at least 6 feet)
- Observe whether restaurant staff are wearing masks
- Wear your mask when you are not eating
- Buffets or salad stations aren’t the only choices
- Hand sanitizer is readily available
- The restaurant has an outdoor space -this is better
P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E as a new Mantra
The pandemic has taken us by storm and turned our world upside down. We should all try to be optimistic that we will eventually get back closer to the way things used to be. However, it is not quite the time to get back to full business as normal. P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E has to be our mantra. While patiently waiting for things to get better, there are ways to support your favorite restaurants. One way to continue supporting your favorite eateries is to order meals take out, like they have been doing at Cozy Corner. Have a virtual dinner party where everyone orders their meals from the same restaurant. Treat a friend to a meal you pay for at one of your favorite places. Have the friend pick it up. Don’t order anything, but call in a big tip at one of your favorites. Whatever you do just keep your health and the health of others in mind. Safety first is what CDC is recommending and this is really important right now. The more we can work to reduce the spread of this vicious virus the sooner we will get back to the more normal state of being.
Happy Juneteenth! Have you heard of Juneteenth? If you don’t know about this holiday then read the Juneteenth article.