How to safely eat at a restaurant during the pandemic

The clink of wine glasses, the buzz of laughter and constant conversation, a pair of familiar eyes smiling at you across the table, skimming through menus—dining out has been sorely missed.

After several months of only consuming takeout and experimenting in the kitchen, many of us are hustling to catch a glimpse or normalcy and get back into our favorite cafes, diners, and restaurants. But how can we chow down safely, without putting ourselves, our peers, and restaurant staff at risk?

Right when lockdowns spread across the country in March, restaurants immediately stood out as a public health hazard. When it comes down to it, restaurants are enclosed spaces, with people chewing, drinking, shouting, laughing, and bumping elbows at close proximity, for long periods of time. Basically, that’s the recipe for an epidemiological disaster, especially when it comes to diseases like COVID-19. Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at the European CDC, points out that eating and drinking require a mask-free moment. Without that layer of protection, you become extremely vulnerable, and so do the people breathing in your un-masked breath. “You become very dependent on social distancing and air ventilation in the restaurant,” says Popescu.

21 PHOTOSCoronavirus epicenter in MiamiSee GalleryCoronavirus epicenter in MiamiMIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 27: Vice President Mike Pence takes off his mask before speaking during a press conference at the the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on July 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida. The Vice President participated in a roundtable with university leadership and researchers on the progress of a Coronavirus vaccine. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Cars line up for Covid-19 test at a “walk-in” and “drive-through” coronavirus testing site in Miami Beach, Florida on July 22, 2020. – The United States on July 21 recorded 68,524 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University reported in its real-time tally. The United States has seen a resurgence of cases, particularly in the so-called Sun Belt, stretching across the south from Florida to California. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)People relax on the beach in Miami Beach, Florida on July 28, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)A couple eat dinner at a restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida on July 28, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)A group of men play music on the beach in Miami Beach, Florida on July 28, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 27: An exterior view of Don Soffer Clinical Research Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on July 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Phase III trials for a COVID-19 vaccine are scheduled to begin at the research center. (Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images)MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 27: An aerial drone view of Marlins Park on July 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Marlins’ home opener against the Baltimore Orioles was postponed after a number of players tested positive for COVID-19.(Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)A man walks past the Aardvark Mobile Health’s Mobile Covid-19 Testing Truck in Miami Beach, on July 24, 2020. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)Nurse practitioner Raciel Gomez (L) swabs the nose of Jeewan Prabha Mehta through a glass pane at the Aardvark Mobile Health’s Mobile Covid-19 Testing Truck in Miami Beach, on July 24, 2020. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)Medical staff look at a form at the Aardvark Mobile Health’s Mobile Covid-19 Testing Truck in Miami Beach, on July 24, 2020. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 24: Dr. Rubin Vercus prepares to place a box of food and a gallon of milk in the back of a vehicle at drive-thru food distribution site set up at the First Church of the Brethren on July 24, 2020 in Miami, Florida. 500 boxes of food were donated by Farm Share for those in need to help people trying to make ends meet during the pandemic. The United States economic recovery is showing signs of weakness as a renewed outbreak of COVID-19 has caused some business owners to lay employees off again, four months after the initial outbreak of coronavirus in March. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 24: Dr. Rubin Vercus places a box of food and a gallon of milk in the back of a vehicle at a drive-thru food distribution site set up at the First Church of the Brethren on July 24, 2020 in Miami, Florida. 500 boxes of food were donated by Farm Share for those in need to help people trying to make ends meet during the pandemic. The United States economic recovery is showing signs of weakness as a renewed outbreak of COVID-19 has caused some business owners to lay employees off again, four months after the initial outbreak of coronavirus in March. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Narendra Mehta (C) completes a form for testing at the Aardvark Mobile Health’s Mobile Covid-19 Testing Truck in Miami Beach, on July 24, 2020. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)FLORIDA, USA – JULY 24: A healthcare worker collects samples using a nasal swab at a mobile COVID-19 testing facility, in Miami Beach, Florida, United States on July 24, 2020. (Photo by MARCO BELLO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Florida, Miami Beach, Covid 19, mobile testing facility, FDEM Division of Emergency Management with long lines. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, with health workers Gabriel Appoh, left, and Varaiaia Barkus at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami on Thursday, July 23, 2020. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 23: Health care workers direct people to use a nasal swab for a self administered test at the new federally funded COVID-19 testing site at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium on July 23, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, visited the site, as the state of Florida experiences a spike in coronavirus cases, to encourage people to wear a mask and take other precautions to fight the pandemic. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 23: A health care worker directs a person to use a nasal swab for a self administered test at the new federally funded COVID-19 testing site at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium on July 23, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, visited the site, as the state of Florida experiences a spike in coronavirus cases, to encourage people to wear a mask and take other precautions to fight the pandemic. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Cars line up for Covid-19 test at a “walk-in” and “drive-through” coronavirus testing site in Miami Beach, Florida on July 22, 2020. – The United States on July 21 recorded 68,524 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University reported in its real-time tally. The United States has seen a resurgence of cases, particularly in the so-called Sun Belt, stretching across the south from Florida to California. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)MIAMI LAKES, FLORIDA – JULY 22: Dr. Jacqueline Delmont, Chief Medical Officer of SOMOS Community Care, uses a nasal swab to test Eddie Mena for COVID-19 in a medical tent at a testing site locate at the Miami Lakes Youth Center on July 22, 2020 in Miami Lakes, Florida. Testing is being provided by doctors from New York City associated with SOMOS Community Care, as the state of Florida experiences a surge in coronavirus cases.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – JULY 20: A man is seen putting away a sign away infront of a closed restaurant on Ocean Drive in the entertainment district of Miami Beach after Miami Dade County imposed a daily 8 p.m. to 6 a.m curfew, on July 20, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. The City of Miami Beach put the curfew back into place to fight the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which has spiked in recent days after the Phase 1 reopening of businesses. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused calls to impose a statewide face mask mandate despite the record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in the state in recent days. (Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images)Up Next

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In the last two weeks alone, thirty-nine US states have experienced an increase in new COVID-19 cases. Yet, seventeen states, including major hot spots like Texas AND Florida, have completely reopened their restaurants. Ten others, like New York and New Jersey, are in the process of doing so. Whether you’re in a state that’s heating up or cooling down, there are multiple options with different levels of risk on how to get your favorite meal from the chef to your plate.

Riskiest: dining inside a restaurant

“The more space, the better,” says Popescu. That’s why, whenever possible, avoid dining inside a restaurant. Studies show that COVID-19 depends on face-to-face transmission through air droplets. Throw in an enclosed space with mask-less people eating and chatting, and you’ve got a high-risk cesspool of transmission.

But if you’re absolutely desperate to go out, before you even step outside your house, assess yourself for any symptoms. Are you feeling sick, or have you engaged in any risky behavior, like socializing or meeting up with someone COVID-19 positive, in the last few days? “If my husband tested positive today, I would not go to a restaurant,” says Popescu. If you feel any symptoms at all, or somebody you’re close to isn’t feeling great, stay home to protect yourself and others.

Say you’ve been avoiding all risk, and nobody you know is sick. When you get to the restaurant, take a long, detailed look at its interior before you commit to dining there. Some big red flags are tables way closer than six feet apart from each other, closed doors and windows, and stuffy air. “If you see a restaurant that isn’t able to keep windows and doors open and just uses an oscillating fan, that’s not a good environment,” says Popescu. Pick a restaurant that’s not filled to the brim with people, and make sure that all patrons and staff are properly masked before you sit down at a table.

Once you’re inside, keep your mask on at all times—unless you’re sipping a drink or eating. “In a restaurant, you should wear a mask when you get there and order, and take it off when you eat or take a few sips of your drink,” says Popescu. Always keep your mask on while you’re interacting with any restaurant staff, and try to minimize your interactions with your hostess and waiter. After all, they are going through so much exposure during a single work shift just so you can order your favorite pasta and wine combo. The least you can do is try your best to keep them safe.

29 PHOTOSCoronavirus in TexasSee GalleryCoronavirus in TexasHOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) A member of the medical staff speaks to a patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)A casket carrying the body of Lola M. Simmons is removed from a hearse at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery following a double funeral service for her mother Lola M. Simmons-Jones at the Denley Drive Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020, who both died of coronavirus. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff talk to each otherin the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY)A patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator lies on a bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff change bed sheets in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 28:(EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Members of the medical staff treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.(Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)The caskets holding the bodies of Lola M. Simmons-Jones and her daughter, Lashaye Antoinette Allen, who both died of coronavirus, are placed next one another before burial at Lincoln Memorial Cemeteryin Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)TOPSHOT – A casket carrying the body of Lola M. Simmons is placed into a hearse following the funeral service at the Denley Drive Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2020, whodied of coronavirus alongside her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen. – Lola M. Simmons-Jones passed due to the coronavirus on July 15, her daughter Lashaye Antoinette Allen passed away from the coronavirus on July 20. Dallas County reported a record number of COVID-19 related deaths in a single day at 36, according to local health officials. This brings the total to 658 confirmed deaths since the first one was reported March 19. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)A man in a car waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A City of Orlando employee holds a COVID-19 test sample at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A couple wearing face masks waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)A man who arrived on foot is tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at Camping World Stadium on July 22, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, and is tied with Texas for the worst current daily average in the nation. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: A nurse pulls out a testing swab at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Sonia Aguirre, right, and 9-years-old Abdiel Sanchez pays respect to his great grandfather Fernando Aguirre, who passed away at age 69 from COVID-19. Fernando’s wife is struggling for her life with coronavirus. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Deacon Joe Vargas, age 43, is conducting three funerals a day, while wearing an air purifier around his neck to help protect him from getting the coronavirus. He is the youngest deacon in the Diosese of Brownsville, Texas, which is why he is so busy. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: The El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Two day-old David Alejandro Vega was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinbug, Texas. His mother, Mayra Vega, who tested positive for COVID, had been unable to hold or see him except via video. Mayra Vega, his mother, tested positive last month, and it resting in the maternal coronavirus ward at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in McAllen, Texas. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-The brother of the groom, Noe De Leon, right, and his wife Jessica Forquer-DeLeon, left, watch with several dozen masked guests during Nichola De Leon’s wedding Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas.The brother of the groom, Noe De Leon, and his wife ???, watch with several dozen masked guests during Nichola De Leon’s wedding Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-A COVID-19 patient is placed on her stomach to help breathing while on a ventilator at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas, where hospitalizations and deaths have spiked this month. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Catrina Rugar, 34, a traveling nurse from Florida, responded first to hospitals in New York City, then Texas’ Rio Grande Valley this month, where she was treating COVID patients at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg last week.The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – JULY 17: Medical workers from New York wearing personal protective equipments handle test samples at temporary testing site for COVID-19 in Higher Dimensions Churchon July 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dispatched medical workers from New York State to assist with the spread of COVID-19 in Houston, and particularly in the hard-hit communities of color. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)Registered Respiratory Therapist Niticia Mpanga walks into a Covid patients room in the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker answers the phone in the ER at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker talks to a patient in the ER at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)A healthcare worker walks down the hall of the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020. – The latest modeling projects the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US to increase further, even as one research team suggests the near-universal use of masks could save 40,000 lives between now and November (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)Up Next

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What about the difference between fast-casual spots, like Chipotle, or fancier, sit-down restaurants? It doesn’t really matter how swanky your meal is, says Amesh Adalja, an assistant professor of environmental health at Johns Hopkins University. It’s all about the time you spend inside, he adds, and if you’re carefully social distancing. So no matter how long you’d spend in your favorite places before COVID-19, now’s the time to distance from others and minimize the amount of time you’re lingering in a restaurant.

Yet, no matter how many precautions you take inside a restaurant, it’s always safer to dine outside.

Risky: outdoor seating

“In general, the risk is lower when you sit outdoors versus indoors,” says Adalja. “It’s easier to social distance, and there’s likely a breeze that will allow for greater air ventilation.” While some studies have shown that COVID-19 can travel up to 26 feet in your coughs and sneezes, epidemiologists still debate over whether the virus is still dangerous when in aerosol form. “There’s a lot of controversy, and the debate’s still going on in the epidemiology field about how dangerous that aerosolization is,” Adalja notes.

So even if you’re sitting outside, sit six feet away from others and keep your mask on whenever you’re not eating or drinking. If you’re set up on the sidewalk, there’s a chance that people will jog or walk right past you, so keep your mask on to protect you and the people out strolling in their neighborhood.

When choosing who to dine out with, look to your immediate household, advises Popescu. “We’re seeing such unabated community transmission that it’s hard to make the case for going out to get a meal or drink with friends,” says Popescu. Tables are designed to be far from each other, but everyone at your table will be sitting close enough together to chit chat and potentially pass along the virus, she says. If you are itching to see a pal from outside your coronavirus bubble, it’s time to break out the picnic basket and go sit somewhere in the park or at the beach where you can safely keep your six feet of distance.

We’re nearing the end of July, though, and temperatures are soaring. If the thought of sitting outside in the scorching heat is unbearable, look toward the safest option: takeout.

Not-So-Risky: takeout

Takeout falls much, much lower on the risk index than taking a seat anywhere at a restaurant. Just remember to wear a mask and social distance while picking your meal up, and to minimize the amount of time you spend waiting inside the restaurant. “Don’t enter the restaurant before your food is ready, unless you can sit outside or wait in your car,” says Popescu. “By choosing takeout, you’re decreasing the amount of time you’re in the restaurant. You’re minimizing exposure.”

When it comes to handling the takeout packaging, Adalja isn’t too worried. “Surface contamination is a secondary transmission type, compared to face-to-face transmission,” says Adalja. “I have no hesitation in getting takeout myself.” According to UC Davis virologist Erin DiCaprio, in an interview with Sactown, COVID-19 isn’t known to spread through food, so just because someone else is preparing it doesn’t necessarily make the food riskier to consume.

What Popescu always remembers is this golden rule—hand hygiene. “I open them, put the food on a plate, toss the container, and wash my hands before I eat,” she says and argues that sanitizing the takeout containers isn’t a big concern. Her husband, however, prefers to sanitize the entire container before handling it with his bare hands. As long as you make sure your hands are clean before you eat, you can take a deep breath, relax, and dig in.

With takeout, you can quench your appetite for supporting the local economy, eating delicious food, and fighting to protect yourself and others from getting sick all in one spoonful.

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