WebMD News Brief

Dining Out Linked to Increased COVID-19 Risk

crowded restaurant

September 11, 2020 -- Adults who tested positive for coronavirus were twice as likely to report dining at a restaurant compared to people who tested negative, the CDC said Thursday.

The finding came from a study involving 314 people tested for coronavirus on July at 11 health care centers in 10 states, the CDC reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The CDC said 154 people tested positive and 160 tested negative.

Participants were asked about wearing face masks, and about their work and social activities, such as going to restaurants, gyms, and the office.

The people who tested positive and the people who tested negative reported taking part in many similar activities. The major exception was going to restaurants, the study said.

“Adults with confirmed COVID-19…were approximately twice as likely as were control-participants to have reported dining at a restaurant in the 14 days before becoming ill,” the study said.

Dr. Todd Rice, a co-author of the report and an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NBC News that the findings were not surprising because people have to remove their masks to eat at a restaurant and may sit close together.

"If people are going to eat out, they need to be thoughtful about how they're going to do it," Rice said.

He said that when he goes to a restaurant, he wears a mask until his food arrives, doesn’t sit at a table next to other people, and asks to sit outside.

The CDC study did not specify whether participants sat inside or outside at restaurants.

The study also said that among people who tested positive, 42% reported having “close contact” with somebody who had COVID-19, compared to 14% of people in the study group who tested negative.

Face mask usage was high among study participants, with 71% of participants testing positive and 74% of those testing negative saying they’d worn some sort of facial covering while out in public.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on September 11, 2020


CDC. “Community and Close Contact Exposures Associated with COVID-19 Among Symptomatic Adults ≥18 Years in 11 Outpatient Health Care Facilities — United States, July 2020.”

NBC News. "As states lift restaurant restrictions, CDC report links dining out to increased COVID-19 risk."

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