HEALTH: How to stay safe at restaurants, church, family gatherings

In the coming weeks, more people will be heading out to restaurants, worship services and family gatherings. 

In the coming weeks, more people will be heading out to restaurants, worship services and family gatherings. Donna Duerson, infection prevention and control manager at Novant Health UVA Health System Culpeper Medical Center, offers advice on staying safe.


What precautions do I need to take if I go to a restaurant?

Social distancing remains a must. Stay at least six feet from other customers while you’re waiting for a table and while you’re seated. Tables should be spaced adequately apart.

Wear a face mask unless you’re eating. A face covering helps reduce the risk of person-to-person transmission. Face masks must cover both the nose and the mouth to be effective.

Wash your hands thoroughly both before and after the meal.


What measures should restaurants take?

Employees must be screened daily for symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath — and go home if they have any.

Tables and booths must be disinfected between customers. High-touch areas — doors and doorknobs, stair rails, tables and payment terminals — should also be cleaned and disinfected frequently.

Self-serve food and drink options should be avoided — or supervised by staff.

Single-use linens and disposable menus (or menu boards) should be used.

Take out, curbside pickup and delivery should be available. 

Cellphone apps, not pagers, should be used to alert patrons when their table is ready.

Barriers such as sneeze guards and partitions should be installed at cash registers or other areas where maintaining separation is difficult.


I’d like to attend in-person church services again. What precautions should I take?


Before visiting a place of worship, confirm that steps are being taken to protect your health. Is the facility being regularly cleaned and disinfected? Are measures in place to facilitate social distancing? Are staff being screened for illness before they report to work? 

If you decide to attend, Duerson recommends wearing a mask and avoiding handshakes, hugs and close contact with others. Do your best to stay six feet from fellow worshippers. 


What precautions should I take if going to a family gathering with relatives and friends who I don’t live with? 

 Even when visiting family, take common-sense precautions. If you’re not sure it’s safe, consider postponing the gathering. Before the get-together, ask yourself:

Is anyone sick?

Has anyone been exposed to COVID-19?

Is there anyone in the family that might be especially hard-hit by the virus, due to advanced age or pre-existing chronic medical conditions?

Keep the gathering small and minimize the risk of person-to-person spread through spacing and handwashing.

Are there any extra steps I can take to protect myself and my family? 

Remember, a person can have COVID-19 and not know it. An infected person can spread the infection even before he or she has symptoms. Protect yourself at all times. Duerson shares a few additional tips:

Wash hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Remember that certain people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Those over 65 or with chronic conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, cancer, or suppressed immune systems need to be especially careful.

Stay attuned to your health. If you have a thermometer, check your temperature daily. If you develop a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or any other concerning symptoms, call you medical provider for advice.

Use “contactless” payment options whenever possible. 

Pay for goods or services electronically using your phone, rather than by cash or card. If that’s not an option, exchange cash or card payments on a receipt tray or counter, not by hand. 

•Consider using a Q-Tip for keying in PINs on credit card keypads (and dispose of it after use).

When possible, use automatic doors.

Carry your own pen, so you don’t have to borrow one that may be contaminated.

Change your clothes and wash up when you get home if you feel protection efforts were lacking.

 For updates on the 2019 novel coronavirus, visit this CDC website. For the most up-to-date information from Novant Health UVA Health System, click here.


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