Pre-pandemic Friday and Saturday nights were prime restaurant nights. What better way to celebrate the end of the workweek than a happy hour drink with friends or a romantic dinner where someone else does the dishes? In many states, indoor dining has begun to reopen, so, is it safe to go back to the bistro? Maybe not.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that dining out was associated with an increase in positive COVID-19 tests. “[A]dults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.”

The researchers compared people who didn’t have COVID-19 to people who did. They found that people who had COVID-19 were over twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the previous 2 weeks.

Two weeks is a significant number because it can take up to 2 weeks to show symptoms after infection. For those who are eating at restaurants, but staying on the patio - believing it to be safer, this is still not good news. The CDC defined restaurant as “indoor, patio, and outdoor seating.”

Some of those who got COVID-19 knew of a close contact, but others didn’t. When the researchers focused on these latter group, they found these people where nearly 3 times as likely to have gone to a restaurant and 4 times as likely to have gone to a coffee shop or cafe.

Keep the Mask On

The report concluded that “[E]xposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19.”

The people studied here were not asked about their behaviors, like mask-wearing. So, even for people who still plan on going to restaurants and getting coffee, choosing to social distance, wear a mask, and practice excellent hygiene, is still important. But, maybe think about picking up takeout instead.