Dining Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sarah Garcia - March 26, 2020

With COVID-19 declared a pandemic and social distancing ramping up, an increasing number of restaurant owners and chains have pivoted to takeout and delivery to safely serve the community.

But is dining out via drive-through or takeout still safe?

Common Questions

Q: Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food?
A: Coronaviruses in general are thought to spread from person-to-person and via respiratory droplets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no current evidence to support transmission of the virus through food.

Q: Can the virus spread through contaminated surfaces or materials, such as restaurant tables or food packaging?
A: It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. But this is not the main way the virus spreads. Because the virus can survive on surfaces and objects, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that food service workers and individuals follow the four food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill

You Can Still Enjoy Your Favorite Restaurants
Many cities have closed their restaurants and bars to all but takeout and delivery. Although COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness, like norovirus or salmonella, exposure to restaurant workers and food vendors may pose a risk.

restaurant sign "grab & go only"
A restaurant in Everett, WA displays a "open for grab & go" sign amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy Cindy Shebley on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

To limit your potential exposure to the virus while dining out, consider these tips:

  • Use curb-side, drive-through or delivery services
  • Order online or use touchless methods of payment to avoid handling of cash and cards
  • Avoid physical greetings such as handshakes
  • Keep hand sanitizer in your car to use before and after interactions and exchanges with restaurant workers
  • Wash your hands immediately before and after eating
  • Discard outer packaging and use your own plates or serving dishes
  • Use only utensils sealed in plastic wrap or use your own

And don’t forget: The best way to protect yourself is to limit close contact with others, especially those who are sick or have been exposed to someone with the virus.

Opting to skip any potential risk and enjoy a home cooked meal? Check out our archive of healthy recipes here.

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