Vanderbilt study shows eating at restaurants may increase COVID-19 risk

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Dining out at restaurants appears to increase the risk of becoming sick with COVID-19, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Our study found that hundreds of people, across the U.S., who tested positive for the virus in July were about two times as likely to have dined in a restaurant over the previous two weeks compared to those who tested negative,” said Wesley Self, physician and clinical researcher at VUMC and principle investigator for the study.

The national study, conducted in 11 cities, assessed differences in close contact exposure between adults who tested positive for COVID-19 and those who tested negative. News 2’s Alex Denis looked into why doctors think those who eat out are so much more susceptible.

“When you’re eating and drinking, you can’t wear a mask obviously,” Self said. “And people tend to get somewhat close in restaurants.”

The authors warn close contact exposures continue to drive the pandemic. Implementing protective steps, Dr. Self says, will help reduce the risk for customers, employees, and communities.

“Wearing a mask as much as possible between chewing is a good idea,” Self said. “Try to stay as socially distanced as possible and avoid sharing utensils, plates, and buffets with others.”

“Do you think takeout is still a good option?” Denis asked.

“I think takeout and delivery allows people to enjoy the great food from our local restaurants, but not be in close proximity to a lot of other people who may have the virus,” Self said.

The report did not look at specific factors in restaurant operations, such as whether the dining was done inside or outdoors.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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