Many people are ready to get back to normal, but it won’t be easy. COVID-19 variants, vaccine hesitancy and the uncertainty of COVID-19 may make it an uphill battle. We conducted a survey and found that 71%of Americans are at least slightly concerned about returning to normal. And over half of those concerned are worried about eating inside restaurants, even after being fully vaccinated.
Older Americans over the age of 55 are less likely to eat indoors than younger adults. But the concern is still high. Nearly half of those ages 35-54 are concerned about dining in restaurants, and 46% of 18-34 feel the same way.
Despite concerns, states are lifting restrictions, and restaurants are close to returning to full capacity. Does that now mean it’s safe? Here’s what we know so far.
What We Know: COVID-19 & Dining Indoors
There are split opinions on whether or not those that are fully vaccinated can dine indoors. The CDC’s report highlights the correlation between COVID-19 cases and dining indoors. The report shows that states that didn’t reopen indoor dining had fewer cases and deaths than countries that did. The reason is that indoor dining usually doesn’t include masks or social distancing, making it easier for others to inhale COVID-19 respiratory droplets.
Between March and April 2020, 40 states enforced mask mandates. But many mandates and restrictions, such as dining indoors, were lifted in June when the CDC saw an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths daily.
Can Fully Vaccinated People Dine Indoors?
COVID-19 cases are starting to hit record lows across the country with vaccine rollouts. But experts are still uncertain about indoor dining safety and COVID-19 transmission. The vaccine can help prevent you from getting severely ill with COVID-19, but experts are still researching the vaccine’s effectiveness against spreading the virus. Here’s what people who are fully vaccinated can do:
- Gather indoors without masks or social distancing.
- Visit those that aren’t vaccinated and aren’t at significant risk for COVID-19 complications.
- Gather outdoors without needing a mask, unless in crowds.
However, it’s recommended to wear a mask in indoor public spaces and around children from more than one household.
So, what does that mean for dining indoors? There isn’t much guidance from the CDC when it comes to restaurants at this time, but it’s still recommended to opt for outdoor gatherings to help prevent COVID-19 transmission.
But other health experts believe that if you’re fully vaccinated, wearing a mask and social distancing from other people, it’s safe to dine indoors.
Questions to Ask Before Dining Indoors
If you’re on the fence about dining indoors, here are a few questions and factors to consider to help you make the best decision for you and your family.
- What are the COVID-19 safety precautions for both employees and customers?
- What sanitation or limited contact precautions are in place?
- Are masks required by guests when not eating or drinking? How is the mask requirement enforced?
- Does the restaurant offer outdoor seating?
- Is there social distancing between you and other parties?
- What are the restaurant’s popular or peak busy hours?
- Are reservations available?
Don’t hesitate to call ahead and ask the hostess any of these questions before going.
Restaurant COVID-19 Safety Protocols to Look For
Many restaurants are going the extra mile to help keep you safe. Here are CDC recommendations that you should look for at your local restaurants and bars to help prevent COVID-19 spread.
- Mask mandates, sanitizing stations and frequent handwashing for both guests and employees.
- Signs to encourage social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.
- Disposable items to reduce contact. You may notice plastic cutlery, plastic tablecloths, digital menus, and other measures.
- Limited seating capacity indoors and outdoors. You should also see at least 6 feet between you and other parties.
- Mobile app alerts or text messages while waiting for pickup orders or seating.
- Limited events or parties.