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CDC study connects dining out with increased COVID-19 risk

Dining with friends
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A recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study comparing daily activities between adults testing positive for COVID-19 and others who tested negative found that people who got the virus were about twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant in the two weeks before their diagnosis. 

The small study included 314 adults who were tested in July after experiencing symptoms, about half (154) of whom tested positive. They received the tests at 11 different healthcare facilities across 10 states. None were located in Missouri.

Similar numbers of people testing positive and negative, 71% vs. 74%, said they “always” wear a face covering while in public. There were also no significant differences between those who tested positive and negative when it came to time spent shopping, gathering with fewer than 10 people, working in an office, going to a gym or salon, using public transportation or attending religious gatherings, according to the study.

A significantly higher percentage of those in the group who tested positive – 42% vs. 14% of those testing negative – also reported having prior close contact with at least one person known to have COVID-19. About half of the close contacts they reported were family members.

The CDC acknowledged the study’s limitations, including its small size and scope. The question about participants’ restaurant visits also did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining – and the states involved had differing dining restrictions in place at the time – making it more difficult to determine exactly how exposures to the virus occurred in different types of restaurant settings.

“Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation,” the researchers wrote. “Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance.” 

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