The CDC is recommending restaurants, cafes and places where people eat and drink, and likely are not wearing a mask while they do so, should consider all efforts to limit possible COVID-19 exposure and community spread, following the publication of a study looking at where coronavirus patients visited.
Adults in the study with positive COVID-19 test results were "twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than those with negative test results", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study looked at people who had coronavirus symptoms and sought testing and care from 11 health care facilities around the country. It found two situations were connected to a higher rate of positive COVID-19 test results compared to negative results; going to locations offering on-site eating and drinking options, and having close contact with persons known to have COVID-19.
“Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19. As communities reopen, efforts to reduce possible exposures at locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities,” the study states.
CDC personnel conducted interviews with more than 300 study participants, asking them about their mask-wearing habits, attending community gatherings, and activities in the last two weeks; including going to an office, salon, gym, bar/coffee shop, church, eating at a restaurant, or using public transportation. Participants answered using a five-point scale to indicate how often they did these activities.
“Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation. Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance. Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use,” the report says.
The responses indicated around 42 percent of those who had positive COVID-19 test results had close contact with one or more people with known positive cases. The majority of those “close contacts” were family members. Only 14 percent of those who had symptoms but had negative COVID-19 test results reported having close contact with a person known to have the virus.
The CDC recommends that if a family member or member of a household becomes sick and it is possibly COVID-19, additional prevention measures should be taken. This includes isolating the sick person as much as possible in the home, reducing shared meals and common spaces, wearing gloves and masks inside the home, and cleaning and disinfecting the home often.
The study was completed during July and the results were released September 10.