CDC study: People with COVID-19 ‘twice as likely’ to report eating at restaurants before symptoms showed

As restaurants across the country are continuing to reopen for in-person dining, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that people diagnosed with COVID-19 were nearly “twice as likely” to have eaten out at restaurants within the two weeks before they showed symptoms.

The study, released on Thursday, looked at 314 adults ages 18 and older in 10 states. It included 154 participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and 160 who tested negative. The participants all reported having symptoms at the time they were tested for the COVID-19 virus.

The report suggests that because of the difficulty in social distancing and people’s use of masks, dining inside of a restaurant presents a greater risk of contracting the virus.

“Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use,” the report reads.

According to the CDC, the research found no other “significant differences” in the group’s other community activities, such as shopping; attending gatherings of 10 people or more inside a home; going to the gym; getting a haircut; going into the office for work; going to church or taking public transportation.

Researchers did see a pattern among those in the study when it concerned eating food in a restaurant or getting a beverage at a bar or coffee shop.

“In addition to dining at a restaurant, case-patients were more likely to report going to a bar/coffee shop, but only when the analysis was restricted to participants without close contact with persons with known COVID-19 before illness onset,” according to the report.

Factors not addressed in the report included how those who visited a bar or a coffee shop were served their beverages and whether those eating at a restaurant ate indoors or dined outdoors.

The authors of the paper also said that the sample group may not be representative of the entire country — for instance, some places may have more cases of COVID-19 infection than others at a given time.

The researchers concluded that more stringent safety measures needed to be implemented at places that offer on-site dining or drinking.

“Implementing safe practices to reduce exposures to SARS-CoV-2 during on-site eating and drinking should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities and slow the spread of COVID-19,” the report concluded.

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