NATIONWIDE — A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to have dined out at a restaurant in the two weeks before getting sick than their healthy counterparts.
The study, published on Thursday, tested 314 adults for coronavirus across California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Washington in July. Of the participants in the study, 154 tested positive for COVID-19.
Researchers paid careful attention to how participants answered questions about wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines when out in public.
According to the report, those that had COVID-19 "were approximately twice as likely as were control-participants to have reported dining at a restaurant in the 14 days before becoming ill."
“In addition to dining at a restaurant," the report continued, "case-patients were more likely to report going to a bar/coffee shop, but only when the analysis was restricted to participants without close contact with persons with known COVID-19 before illness onset.”
The report speculates that “direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow” inside restaurants likely impacts COVID transmission.
Activities such as shopping, going to a gym, going into the office, or attending small gatherings seemed to have little impact on positive or negative test results.
"Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use,” the report states.
The news comes as restaurants across the country are feeling the pressure to reopen. As the U.S. has no uniform approach to reopening the service industry during the pandemic, states have been left to issue their own guidance on when and how restaurants may serve patrons.
On Wednesday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City’s indoor dining would be able to open at 25 percent capacity come Sept. 30, over six months after restaurants first shuttered their doors. New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy made the same call for his state’s restaurants over the Labor Day weekend.
Across the country, most of California’s restaurants are still prohibited from indoor dining, although Gov. Gavin Newsom has allowed a handful of counties to open indoor seating with varied restrictions.
Ultimately, both customers and employees will have to work together to best stop the spread of the virus.
Dr. Kiva Fisher, lead author of the CDC’s most recent study, told ABC News that employers can start by "encouraging employees who are sick to stay home, requiring frequent employee hand-washing, requiring masks and offering options for delivery and pick-up."
Additionally, customers should “take prevention steps when dining out, such as wearing a mask when not eating or drinking, staying at least 6 feet apart from others and washing hands frequently," Fisher added.