Can I Eat Out at a Restaurant or Bar Right Now? A Nurse Explains the CDC’s Recommendations

If you're ready to finally enjoy a meal out, we hear you! We're breaking down the CDC restaurant guidelines, as well as how to stay as safe as possible during your outing.

Over the last year, most of us have become takeout experts. Now, many of us are ready to ditch the to-go containers, venture off the couch, put on real clothes and enjoy a night out with family or friends.

That’s why we’re tackling the latest CDC restaurant guidelines to help you make the safest decisions for your family. It’s time to zip up those “real pants” and grab your bag. We’re going out!

Risk Levels of Eating Out

When it comes to visiting a restaurant, not all dining options are created equal. Where you sit and how the restaurant handles public health measures will affect your risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Restaurants Bars Risk assessment Cdc chartVia cdc.gov

The safest way to eat out, other than carrying out, is to go out with people from your household and eat outside. If you prefer or need to stay cautious right now, look for a restaurant that spaces its outdoor tables out by six feet. If it helps you to feel more comfortable, call the restaurant ahead of time to inquire if the servers will be wearing masks.

Eating indoors at a restaurant is riskier, especially if you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. If you’d like to eat indoors and have not received the vaccine, look for a restaurant that requires masks and social distancing as a way to reduce your risk.

Before you go out, know the do’s and don’ts of avoiding germs at restaurants.

Guidelines for People Who Are Vaccinated

According to the CDC, those of us who are fully vaccinated are now able to safely enjoy restaurant dining without masks or social distancing. This includes both indoors and outdoors, as well as dining with friends from outside your household.

Feel free to meet friends for a meal, even if they have not received the vaccine.

It’s helpful to remember that these guidelines will continue to evolve and change as time goes on. Because no vaccine is 100% effective, dining out is not risk-free but is still considered safe for fully vaccinated individuals.

It’s Normal to Not Feel Ready

If you’re still feeling unsure about visiting a bar or restaurant, that’s OK. The trauma of living through a global pandemic is real, and we have all been affected in one way or another. It’s normal to feel anxious about jumping back into social engagements and crowded events. It’s also normal to be itching to get back out there. Be patient with yourself! We’ve never done this before.

Prefer to stick with carryout? Don’t miss our tips for safely enjoying your takeout favorites.

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.