Can You Dine Out and Still Be Safe?

It’s also good to ask beforehand if the servers are wearing masks, and if the masks are medical-grade, Mermel added.

“We in the scientific community believe the vast majority of transmission is respiratory-to-respiratory,” Mermel said. Masks are key to protecting patrons from whatever respiratory germs the servers might have.

For that reason, Mermel is less concerned about all of the objects you might touch in a restaurant.

Restaurants taking appropriate precautions — wiping down menus between uses or using disposable menus, continually disinfecting touch screens and payment devices — should be able to nearly eliminate the risk of contracting COVID-19 via touch, Mermel said.

“If someone hacked away holding a menu in front of their face and the droplets from their cough got all over the menu, it was not cleaned, it was taken out of that person’s hands and then given to someone at the next table and that person touched it and then touched their mouth or their eyes or their nose, yes, it’s possible in that case transmission could occur,” Mermel said.

The CDC also recommends throwaway utensils, but Mermel said if your plates and cutlery “go through a hot dishwasher, I’m not concerned. I’m more concerned about menus or other things that should be routinely cleaned between patrons.”

Finally, don’t forget your role in preventing spread of COVID-19. Wear your mask when you’re not eating, maintain social distancing throughout the restaurant, and if you’re dining with others make sure you’re sitting away from people who aren’t in your household, the CDC recommends.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about social activities and COVID-19.