Restaurant owners across metro Atlanta are closing their dining rooms as they adhere to social distancing guidelines meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Many are hoping that take-out service will provide a lifeline. But they worry that the public is confused about whether it’s safe to even pick up meals in this age of coronavirus.
Here’s what the experts say: Go ahead and order, but exercise a little caution.
The good news is the virus is not likely to be transmitted by food itself. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is currently no evidence to suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.
So, while ordering take-out food poses low risk for catching COVID-19, in general, public health officials also offer guidance for keeping the risk extremely low.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Everything you need to know about the coronavirus
If you get take-out, you’ll want to keep your distance from other people, including employees at a restaurant or the delivery person, as much as possible.
The coronavirus is generally spread through respiratory droplets produced by a cough or sneeze.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between those who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
Many establishments are working to provide contact-less deliveries, such as leaving food on a porch when it’s requested.
Ted M. Ross, the director of University of Georgia’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology, added it’s better to use your debit or credit card than exchanging money with a delivery person or cashier.
As for the food, people shouldn’t worry about that, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. It’s all about the people, he emphasized, and being exposed to people who may potentially have the virus.
He emphasized that servers at a restaurant or cooks preparing the food pose no greater risk than the other patrons in the restaurant, or anyone else for that matter.
“Human beings are all the same,” he said.
The FDA has issued a statement stressing the importance of everyone in the food supply chain following good hygiene practices, including washing hands and surfaces regularly.
There are additional steps that members of the public can take, especially older adults and those with weakened immune systems who need to be more careful. For example, Ross said, people could use gloves to pick up or receive food. They could then remove the food from the packaging and put it on a plate. Then they should dispose of the gloves and wash their hands before eating.
Want to take it one step further? Yes, heating the food up will kill the virus. But Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez suggests skipping the microwave, which doesn’t heat the food uniformly. Turn to your stove instead and reheat the food to to a temperature of at least 165 degrees F, he said.
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