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Dining Out? It’s Best to Stay In for Now (And Use These Precautions)

A restaurant with empty tables.
Song_about_Summer/Shutterstock

Grabbing a meal at your favorite restaurant or when you’re too busy or stressed to put together a meal for yourself is a great way to relax—but during the pandemic outbreak, the best advice is to stay in (and take the precautions if you don’t).

Coronavirus Guidelines for the USA

On Monday, March 16, President Trump addressed the nation with new guidelines that should be followed for the next 15 days to help slow the spread of the virus. Some of them specifically affect public locations like restaurants.

Here are the guidelines that directly relate to dining out experiences:

  • Avoid social gatherings with more than 10 people.
  • Avoid eating (or drinking) in restaurants, bars, and food courts.
  • Pick-up and food delivery are currently safer options.
  • Use drive-thru to limit contact or close proximity to others.

General CDC Recommendations

The general recommendation for protecting yourself (and others), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is by avoiding exposure to the virus.

The understanding is that this virus predominantly spreads from person-to-person. It can spread from being in close contact (within six feet) of someone infected.

If that infected person coughs or sneezes, the tiny airborne droplets might land on your mouth or nose, or you might inhale them. This is especially dangerous for older adults with underlying medical conditions.

To protect yourself and others, the CDC recommends that you:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Properly cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue; then thoroughly wash your hands and dispose of the soiled tissue.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick (or might be infected).
  • Stay home if you are ill, unless you need medical care.
  • Disinfect and clean surfaces that are often touched throughout the day.
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick or if you’re caring for someone who is ill.

So, What Does That Mean for Dining Out?

If you consider all CDC recommendations and stringent guidelines announced on March 16, the best course of action is to remain home and avoid restaurants altogether.

However, if you still choose to dine out at a restaurant, be 100% sure you aren’t displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. While out in public, be sure to frequently wash your hands and stay at least six feet away from other people.

Being near others in public is risky, especially if someone infected with the coronavirus is close by. It’s also essential to think about how often door handles and other surfaces are touched in restaurants. Protect your hands with barriers if possible, and wash your hands.

Although most restaurants are closing their doors, some have remained open. Be especially cautious if you choose to dine at a buffet, but it is highly recommended that you avoid it altogether.

Serving spoons are considered a frequently touched surface in buffets because multiple people handle them, and they aren’t replaced (or disinfected) between the use of customers.

Although no documented cases or reports of the transmission of coronavirus have been attributed to food alone, exposure still comes from the restaurant itself, utensils, and adjacent materials.

Play Your Part and Stay Home

Again, we want to stress the importance of playing your part to contain the spread of coronavirus by following these instructions for the well-being of yourself and others.

The CDC also provides guidance on cleaning and disinfecting households where persons under investigation (or confirmed cases) might reside.

While remaining home, you should practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. Some of these surfaces include:

  • Tables
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Handles
  • Sinks
  • Faucets
  • Desks (including your keyboard and mouse)

If you touch it frequently, you should sanitize it.


As of now, you must remain at home as much as possible, especially if you are an older adult or a person with a chronic medical condition. Stock up on supplies if you have not already, practice social distancing, and avoid crowds.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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