What you need to know about eating in a restaurant during the Coronavirus pandemic

Several dining establishments in the U.S are determined to re-open in the next few weeks.

In reaction, The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has released a list of guidelines that must be adhered to by commercial institutions operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Arrange tables and seating to have at least six feet of space between customers both indoors and outdoors. Customers sitting at counters should be spaced at least six feet apart.
  • No more than 50% of maximum occupancy will be allowed inside the building, or 12 people per 1,000 feet if the restaurant does not have a fire code number. The number must be posted in a conspicuous place.
  • Post signs reminding customers and staff to social distance and follow their 3 Ws: wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart, and washing hands frequently.
  • Put markings on the floor in high-traffic areas, such as cash registers or waiting areas, noting six-feet spacings

Maintaining distance between patrons appears to be the most important protective measure suggested by medical professionals. The problem is the six feet rule established in the early days of the coronavirus crisis is actually based on outdated information published more than 40 years ago.

According to new research motioned in the journal The Physics of Fluids active SARS-CoV-2 material can travel as far as 18 feet in five seconds, challenging previous data on the pathogen’s stability while airborne.  

From the report:

“This work is vital, because it concerns health and safety distance guidelines, advances the understanding of spreading and transmission of airborne diseases, and helps form precautionary measures based on scientific results.”

To test the ramifications of this new development, authors Talib Dbouk and Dimitris Drikakis constructed computational fluid dynamics simulation models that reflected various turbulent gas and respiratory SARS-CoV-2 emission scenarios. The analysis encompassed 1,008 saliva droplets and roughly 3.7 million subsequent equations.

The simulation even factored in relevant variables like dispersion force, humidity, saliva/air molecule interactions, and the transition of droplets from liquid to vapor.

The results were displayed in grid form and represented the entirety of space in front of a coughing person.  This is how the researchers determined that a modest breeze traveling at 2.5 MPH can disperse infected saliva 18 feet in five seconds.

Following emission, coronavirus droplets enter a host, contaminate surfaces as fomites, or remain trapped and clustered in aerosoles as virions. This suspended payload can remain infectious in air clouds for up to three hours.

“The droplet cloud will affect both adults and children of different heights. Shorter adults and children could be at higher risk if they are located within the trajectory of the traveling saliva droplets,” the researchers explained. “Each cell holds information about variables like pressure, fluid velocity, temperature, droplet mass, droplet position, etc. The purpose of the mathematical modeling and simulation is to take into account all the real coupling or interaction mechanisms that may take place between the main bulk fluid flow and the saliva droplets, and between the saliva droplets themselves.”

Countries that restored commercial markets without experiencing spikes in transmission rates were all linked by adherence to academic guidelines. Routine mask use, handwashing, and contact tracing has to accompany mobility or recurring waves of coronavirus infection will continue to overwhelm medical facilities. 

Although the following guidelines are not required of establishments, CDC officials suggest employers heed them before they resume operations:

  • Allow no more than six people at a table, unless all people are part of a family from the same household.
  • Refrain from using shared tables among multiple parties, unless parties can be spaced six feet apart.
  • Require customers to wait outside, with markings to ensure they wait six feet apart.
  • Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol at the entrance.
  • Educate employees on wearing, safely removing, and washing face coverings.
  • Install physical barriers at cash registers or food pickup areas where patrons cannot maintain six feet of separation from staff.
  • Advise waitstaff to stay six feet away from customers when possible.
  • Stagger seating times with reservations or other methods. Stagger employee shifts.
  • Ask people to wait in their cars and alert them by phone when their table is ready.
  • Provide condiments only when asked or provide single-use condiment packets.
  • Continue take-out and delivery options.
  • Use rolled utensils, do not preset tables.
  • Offer contactless and touchless payment options.
  • Sanitize receipt trays, pens and counters between customers
  • Designate an ordering area at bars where customers can order at least six feet from other customers at the bar