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New study finds dining out increases chances of catching coronavirus

The report shows adults infected with the virus were more than twice as likely to report dining out in the 14 days before getting sick.

HOUSTON — Restaurants in Texas are still operating at a limited capacity under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order.

The restrictions are place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows eating at restaurants may increase your risk of catching the virus.

For instance, restaurants have adjusted to being in business during the pandemic as best they can.

Take-out and delivery options have grown very popular but many people still enjoy dining out.

“I think people should be extraordinarily thoughtful in how they decide to go out," Dr. Paul Biddinger, director of Emergency Preparedness Research, Evaluation and Practice program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said.

He added, “Of course you have to take off your mask in order to eat and that changes the protection that we’ve been recommending now for so many months. “

The report shows adults infected with the virus were more than twice as likely to report dining out in the 14 days before getting sick.

“And if they are sharing a table with people that are not part of their household, part of their close environment, they should actually be discussing risk factors, recognizing still that we think that 30-60 percent of people can transmit COVID when they have minimal or no symptoms,” Dr. Biddinger said.

He believes there may be different risks between dining indoors versus on a patio.

Most restaurants are doing what they can to protect people by limiting capacity and spacing out tables.

In a statement, the Texas Restaurant Association said the study contained a number of flaws.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that the public is able to make decisions about activities outside of their home based on complete and accurate information about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

We still do not find evidence of a systemic spread of the coronavirus coming from restaurants who are effectively following our Restaurant Reopening Guidance, encouraging guests to wear masks, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. In effect, the lack of a direct correlation should be evidence that, when restaurants demonstrate effective mitigation efforts, the risk is low when dining outside or inside.

The methodology used in the recent CDC article focused on the transmission of COVID-19 and restaurant visits contains numerous flaws, and the conclusions of the study are insufficient to guide consumer behavior. Across myriad industries including gyms, restaurants, and retail, the conclusions reached by the researchers are not supported. Furthermore, the results calling out restaurants specifically are not supported by the data nor the methodology.

It is irresponsible to pin the spread of COVID-19 on a single industry. Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA’s Food Code and have taken additional steps to meet the safe operating guidelines required by CDC, FDA, OSHA, federal, state, and local officials. We continue to urge restaurants to follow the National Restaurant Association’s Reopening Guidance developed in conjunction with the CDC, FDA, and their state and local guidance. Additionally, we ask all of our customers to help us keep our employees and their fellow diners safe by following the existing guidelines.

Dr. Biddinger said, “I absolutely understand why people are eager to get together with friends and we certainly want to be able to support the restaurant community.”

He urged people to be careful.

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