Dining out with unvaccinated children


From Metro Creative Services

Dining out safely and confidently has long been a coveted component of getting back to normal life after the pandemic.

In spring of 2021, mask mandates were lifted in most areas and it seemed like dining out and other activities were returning. However, new variants of the virus – Delta and Omicron – and breakthrough infections have added to uncertainty and raised some familiar questions about the safety of dining out, particularly with unvaccinated children.

Though COVID-19 vaccines are now available to children between the ages of 5 to 11, families may once again be wondering how to navigate going out.

Epidemiologists and other public health experts agree that there is no such thing as zero risk when dining out. Families must conduct their own risk assessment before venturing out with unvaccinated individuals. The following tips can help parents assess that risk so they can make the safest, most informed decisions possible.

• Check virus infection rates. Study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk levels for areas where you intend to dine out. This information is free and can provide valuable insight as to the safety of a given area. In Coweta County, the infection rate for the past two weeks is 11.6 percent. The rate simply means that 11.6 percent of folks tested were positive here locally.

• Opt for outdoor seating. It’s generally safer to dine outdoors than indoors. According to Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at George Mason University, when dining indoors people are eating and drinking without masks on. They don’t know other people’s vaccine status and they are there for prolonged periods of time, during which virus particles could be circulating through the air. Virus particles are dispersed outdoors more easily than in a crowded interior space.

• Dine at off-peak hours. If you must eat indoors due to weather or other circumstances, it may be better to dine during off-peak hours when the restaurant is largely unoccupied. This reduces the risk of contact with other people.

• Consider restaurants that require proof of vaccination status. A growing number of restaurants are not only requiring their staff to be fully vaccinated, but also their customers. While requiring vaccinations is a hot-button issue across the globe, diners concerned about unvaccinated individuals should contact local restaurants requiring vaccinations to determine if ineligible persons can still dine there. If so, those restaurants may be safer bets than establishments with no such requirements.

• Wear masks as much as possible. Have unvaccinated children wear masks while walking through the restaurant and other crowded areas. They can pull down masks to eat and then put them back on when they finish eating.

Dining out with unvaccinated children requires parents to carefully assess risk and make decisions that keep their children as safe as possible.

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