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CDC Finds Adults With COVID-19 Were Twice as Likely to Have Been to a Restaurant

Plus, OSHA says a number of food companies are failing to protect their workers, and more news to start your day

A waiter in a white jacket and face mask serves patrons sitting on the sidewalk
A waiter wears a face mask and rubber gloves outside Peter Luger Steakhouse in Williamsburg.
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food and Travel Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

A study of patients at 11 U.S. healthcare facilities unveiled a pretty clear pattern

The question of whether indoor dining is a good idea in a pandemic with a respiratory disease is becoming more urgent as the weather begins to cool and outdoor dining becomes less feasible. Many states across the country allow it in some capacity, but naturally, both restaurant workers and customers are skeptical. “I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with indoor dining yet. I don’t feel safe,” Douglas Kim, chef and owner of Jeju Noodle Bar, told Eater NY of the city’s plan to allow restaurants to open for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity at the end of September. And there’s good reason for that worry — according to the CDC, “adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.”

The investigation of 802 adults took place through July. Participants were asked about their recreational behavior, and also about their adherence to recommendations like wearing a mask or keeping six-feet distance from other people. And while “no significant difference” was found between case-patients and control patients among activities like shopping, going to an office, or using public transportation, “case patients were more likely to have reported dining at a the 2 weeks before illness onset than were control participants,” and “when the analysis was restricted to the 225 participants who did not report recent close contact with a person with known COVID-19, case patients were more likely than were control participants to have reported dining at a restaurant.” The CDC also found that participants who went to or worked at restaurants were less likely to have observed everyone around them following recommended safety procedures.

Many in the restaurant industry have been clamoring for more indoor dining allowances, arguing that there’s no way their businesses can survive on outdoor dining or extremely limited indoor dining alone. The CDC’s investigation did not ask participants to differentiate between outdoor and indoor dining, but it’s clear dining out at all still poses a risk. Which is just one more reason restaurants should be getting a bailout instead of having to risk people’s health to stay afloat.

And in other news...

  • Starbucks is officially switching to strawless lids. Straws will still be available on demand. [RB]
  • The California division of OSHA is cracking down on food companies, saying Smithfield Foods, Overhill Farms, and others failed to protect workers from COVID-19. [The Counter]
  • Whole Foods workers are furious over a new employee absentee policy, which is making it harder for them to call off work. [BI]
  • Using CRISPR technology to make cherries without pits. [FoodDive]
  • The USDA is reducing oversight on the egg industry, which is never good. [Modern Farmer]