Corona infection in restaurants: study from the USA shows the risk


Eating something to eat in a restaurant or having a drink in a bar could carry a high risk of transmitting Covid-19 – a risk that is at least higher than with other activities. That shows a new study by the US health authority CDC. The results of the investigation were released on Friday, September 11th.

The authors found: Compared to the participants who tested negative, almost twice as many of those who tested positive for the coronavirus had eaten in a restaurant in the previous fourteen days.

“In addition, those who tested positive were also more often in a bar or café. This only applied where we limited the analysis to participants who had not had close contact with Covid 19 sufferers before they fell ill themselves, ”write the researchers.

42 percent had close contact with a person suffering from Covid-19

The study was conducted from July 1 to July 29, in a total of ten US states. All subjects had taken a corona test after reporting symptoms. About half of the test subjects – 154 – tested positive. The respective severity of the disease was not recorded.

The participants live in states of the USA that all have different corona guidelines: California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. The researchers asked them when and where they had come into contact with many people in the two weeks prior to their test.

They also wanted to know if they had recently had dinner in a restaurant, worked in an office, attended a church service, or used public transport regularly. In addition, the participants were asked to answer whether they had gone shopping or to the gym – and then assessed for themselves how well they had adhered to the social distancing standards on all these occasions.

The scientists found:

  • 42 percent of those who tested positive said they had had close contact with a person suffering from Covid-19 in the two weeks prior to their test. Most of these people – 51 percent – were family members.
  • A far smaller number – 14 percent – of those who tested negative also had contact with a person suffering from Covid-19 during the same period.
  • 71 percent of those who tested positive and 74 percent of those who tested negative said they always wore a mouth and nose covering if they had been in public for the two weeks prior to their test. The researchers did not determine what type of coverage.

Details on eating in restaurants are a matter for the federal states

The study has a few limitations, as the authors write in the final part. For example, the researchers did not determine whether the test subjects had eaten inside or outside. More research was needed to see if the results would be similar in larger groups.

In the USA, almost all states now allow citizens to be entertained in the interior of restaurants. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York State, announced on Wednesday, September 9th, that in New York – one of the worst hit regions in the US – indoor restaurant operations could resume on September 30th. However, only 25 percent of the area should be used for this, reports the Reuters news agency.

In Germany, the situation is similar with the Corona rules for gastronomy: “In the restaurant and gastronomy area, the distances between the individual tables and hygiene concepts must be strictly observed,” says the Federal Government’s website. However, the details are regulated by the federal states – taking into account the number of cases in the respective regions.

Poor ventilation is one of the biggest risk factors

The CDC states that the lowest risk of transmission is when citizens order their food to go, buy it in a drive-through, or have it delivered to their homes. “Eating out”, however, carries the greatest risk – indoors and outdoors – if neither the number of tables has been reduced nor the individual tables are at least 1.5 to two meters apart.

Other high-risk activities include group meetings with family or friends, religious events, going to the cinema, and sports events. US epidemiologist Susan Hassig explained this in an earlier conversation with Other activities that take place in the fresh air – such as going to the beach – are less dangerous. What in turn generally increases the risk is poor indoor ventilation. Of course, this also applies to restaurants, especially when the guests are more likely to be indoors again in autumn and winter.

As of Monday morning, September 15, the United States is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in the world. According to official figures from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, there are more than 6.5 million registered cases. Almost 195,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus so far.

This text has been translated from the English original and edited.


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