Are Restaurants Coping with the Covid-19 Crisis?

The Covid-19 plague has turned into a national crisis in the U.S., sending restaurants, fast-food outlets and catering services reeling from its impact.

In line with the “social distancing” precaution recommended by the World Health Organization, state public health officials are urging the public to stay home and as much as possible, out of public places.

Although many have heeded the advice, not a few have not done so; mostly Trump supporters who were convinced by Donald Trump’s earlier pronouncements that the novel coronavirus contagion is just a Democratic Party hoax. Even if they came to realize that the outbreak is true, they believed Trump when he said that his government has placed the virus-spread under control.

Nonetheless, owners of restaurants and similar food service businesses have not been remiss in doing their part. When news about confirmed cases of Covid-19 broke out, they implemented actions to minimize the threats posed by community transmission of Covid-19.

The National Restaurant Association, through the group’s Senior Vice President of Certifications and Operations Larry Lynch, said they have also been advising restaurants to make sure that customers who will be coming in, as well as the staff they are employing, including delivery truck drivers, do not show symptoms before they are allowed to enter, mingle and/or interact with others.

Public Health Experts Say Dining Out is Safe If….

Some public health experts profess that dining out is safe as long as everyone follows the safety precautions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Such precautions include frequent washing of hands with soap and water, disinfecting one’s hand with sanitizer and distancing oneself from others by at least 3 feet away, especially from those coughing or sneezing.

Craig Hedberg, an expert on food-borne illness and a professor at the University of Minnesota said that although there’s no evidence that the illness is transmitted through food, he said transmission of Covid-19 by way of food can be avoided if restaurant owners and managers make sure that the workers tasked to serve orders, as well as the kitchen staff, are free of any symptoms.

Hedberg also pointed out that in a city that already has 100 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection, restaurants specifically those who serve food by way of buffet tables present greater risks. In a buffet-style of food service, people queue to get food, and use serving utensils that a lot more people have touched. Those features increase risks of getting exposed to the disease when dining out.

 

Benjamin Chapman, a food safety expert who is also a professor at North Carolina State University commented that  “Contactless food delivery is a good alternative,” “But people still have to wash their hands after holding packages, regardless if there is not enough basis for assuming that the pathogen can be transmitted via food delivery containers. 

Taking extra precautions when dining out is not enough for high risk groups like the elderly and to those with existing health disorders like diabetes and respiratory illnesses. Leana Wen, an emergency physician who used to serve as the Health Commissioner for Baltimore City said that in areas where the virus is already spreading, it is a must for older adults and those with underlying conditions to stay home and at the same time keep their distance from others.