Dining out safely and confidently has long been a coveted component of getting back to normal life after the pandemic. In spring of 2021, mask mandates were lifted in most areas and it seemed like dining out and other activities were returning. However, new variants of the virus and breakthrough infections have added to uncertainty and raised some familiar questions about the safety of dining out, particularly with unvaccinated children.
Dining out with unvaccinated children requires parents to carefully assess risk and make decisions that keep their children as safe as possible.
Though COVID-19 vaccines are now available to people ages 12 and older, children younger than 12 remain ineligible for vaccination. As a result, families may once again be wondering how to navigate going out.
Epidemiologists and other public health experts agree that there is no such thing as zero risk when dining out. Families must conduct their own risk assessment before venturing out with unvaccinated people. The following tips can help parents assess that risk so they can make the safest, most informed decisions possible.
• Check virus infection rates. Study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk levels for areas where you intend to dine out. This information is free and can provide valuable insight as to the safety of a given area.
• Opt for outdoor seating. It’s generally safer to dine outdoors than indoors. According to Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at George Mason University, when dining indoors, people are eating and drinking without masks on. They don’t know other people’s vaccine status and they are there for prolonged periods of time, during which virus particles could be circulating through the air. Virus particles are dispersed outdoors more easily than in a crowded interior space.
• Dine at off-peak hours. If you must eat indoors due to weather or other circumstances, it may be better to dine during off-peak hours when the restaurant is largely unoccupied. This reduces the risk of contact with other people.
• Wear masks as much as possible. Have unvaccinated children wear masks while walking through the restaurant and other crowded areas. They can pull down masks to eat and then put them back on when they finish eating.
– Courtesy of Metro Creative Services