Tested positive for COVID? Have you eaten in a restaurant recently?

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Diners at a sidewalk cafe where clear partitions separate each table
Sidewalk dining in Brooklyn
Photo: Noam Galai (Getty Images)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been trying to, well, figure out how to control and prevent the coronavirus since it first arrived here in February. A recent study asked 314 adults in 10 states—all of whom had symptoms, but only half of whom tested positive—about their habits and routines: their mask-wearing practices, their interactions in the community. Those who tested positive were twice as likely to have reported eating in a restaurant within the two weeks before symptoms appeared.

That includes eating on a patio or any other outdoor seating, by the way, and following recommendations for mask-wearing and social distancing.

The researchers wrote: “Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation. Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance. Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use.”

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The study didn’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor restaurant dining; the CDC says in further studies, it will look into that more, and survey a wider group of patients. The report also didn’t mention how many of those who tested positive worked at the restaurants.

Meanwhile, the CDC is sticking to its guiding principles for restaurants and bars. The lowest risk remains getting takeout or delivery.