Is it safe to dine outdoors at a restaurant?

Coronavirus

People sit in an outdoor dining area at a restaurant in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – After almost a year of lockdown in the U.S., you may be antsy to dine outdoors at a restaurant. But is doing so safe?

According to Neysa Ernst, the nurse manager of the Johns Hopkins biocontainment unit, “If you do all the right things, it’s probably going to be okay.”

“If the restaurant has met their social contract of following COVID protocols, then it’s the customer’s social contract to meet those rules and respect that. If you’re not a social contract person, then stay home.”

Ernst says you should only be dining out with those in your immediate household and to avoid large groups.

She recommends calling restaurants ahead of your visit to make sure they’re maintaining COVID-19 protocols and to check whether they require reservations, as some restaurants amid the pandemic do.

Once you’re at the restaurant, take stock of what’s happening inside: Are servers fully masked? Are people seated at least six feet away from one another? Are patrons wearing masks when not eating or drinking?

“And if it looks like Disneyland inside, don’t go in,” Ernst said.

Ernst said it’s important to “remain vigilant” throughout the meal — don’t pull your mask down or cozy up to people outside your household after a big meal and a few drinks.

And Ernst stresses one more thing: “Tip your servers really well. That’s important too. These people are starving, it’s just really hard.”

As for indoor dining, that’s a big no-no for Ernst. She cited a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that adults with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have dined inside at a restaurant.

“I feel much safer outdoors than I do indoors,” Ernst said. “I myself haven’t really been out. And it’s really hard, but as I keep saying to everyone: We’re almost there.”

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