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Dining out in a coronavirus world is an unappetizing thought for an industry built on hospitality.
But it’s the new reality as restaurants in dire need to bounce back from revenue loss start to reopen. In some states, that means plexiglass partitions at ordering counters, socially distanced tables and no more bread baskets or shared accouterments.
As restaurants reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, businesses will be required to take more health and safety precautions
States like Georgia have required restaurant employees to wear masks, space out seating in dining rooms and use contactless payment methods and disposable menus when available. A California proposal would cut out buffets, salad bars and shared bread baskets and have hand sanitizer replace salt and pepper shakers. And Florida dining rooms reopened at 25 percent capacity, while local governments are urged to consider requiring temperature checks for employees and hand-washing and face masks for servers.
Still, it may take eaters time before they commit to a table, considering one-third of Americans say they will eat out less frequently as a result of the pandemic, according to the restaurant industry research group Technomic.
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Here are some simple steps customers can take to minimize their risk of coming in contact with the virus while dining out:
Avoid person-to-person contact
The virus cannot be transmitted through food, according to the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organization. It's spread through person-to-person contact or via droplets expelled into the air when someone sneezes or coughs. That’s why it's crucial to wear a face mask in public and wash your hands before eating to avoid touching surfaces that may be infected. Governments are also advising customers to seek out contactless payment options.
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Restaurants that are able to legally reopen dining rooms should already be spacing out tables so that they are at least 6 to 8 feet apart in dining rooms, and it's important to adhere by those guidelines to curb the spread.
Be mindful of how your food is being prepared
Restaurants are required to avoid the transmission of foodborne bacteria and viruses through meal prep that would prevent the coronavirus from getting into your food, according to Consumer Reports.
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The CDC says: “If you can see food being prepared, check to make sure workers are using gloves or utensils to handle foods that will not be cooked further, such as deli meats and salad greens."
The FDA also suggests that facilities double up on cleaning and disinfecting efforts to minimize the risks associated with employees who may be asymptomatic or sick.
The Associated Press contributed to this report