CDC: Dining at restaurants tied with increased COVID-19 infection risk. Local expert has concerns

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A new study from the Centers for Disease Control puts restaurants in a riskier category than most other places for the spread of COVID-19.

According to the study, people who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have said they ate at a restaurant within two weeks of an infection compared with those people who tested negative.

Researchers admit they didn't ask participants whether they ate inside or outside.

"The biggest risk in contracting COVID-19 is being around other people," said Ben Chapman, professor and food safety specialist at NC State University. "It doesn't go into the nuance of eating outdoors versus indoors, going to a restaurant where employees are wearing face-covering coverings and not staying at someone's table and interacting with them a long time."

The study had about 300 participants. Experts say it doesn't go much into things that weren't known. He said it's more important to look at restaurant practices on a case by case basis.

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"It's not that restaurants, in general, are bad or restaurants, in general, are good, it's all about management steps that each individual business is taking so I want to see those best practices when I go there," said Chapman.

He helped the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association develop the "Count on Me" program, which allows restaurants to display a sticker in their window after going through a statewide best practices training.

"If someone is not comfortable coming out, they shouldn't and it's okay, we'll take the food there," said Giorgios Bakatsias, owner of Parizade in Durham.

He also owns part of Vin Rouge, Bin 54 and Kipos Tavern.

He has a large outdoor space and he said they did a number of things during the shutdown.

"We remodeled the kitchen in the sense of bringing in new equipment. We even pressure washed everything," Giorgios said. "How are we going to write a new chapter that's better than the one we've left? That's what I'm more focused on. It's not going to be dining at home every night that's for sure."

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