On Saturday morning, the IDPH officially permitted restaurants in Cook County to reopen for indoor dining. As we've seen this happen before, most of us already know the drill. Restaurants can serve customers at 25% capacity, guests must wear masks when not eating or drinking, and social distancing is required. Many employees in the food service industry felt that permission to reopen was long overdue, but this decision leaves us to question just how safe it is to participate in indoor dining this winter.
Indoor dining was suspended on October 30th, 2020, due to a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the virus. Experts explained their fear of running out of hospital beds for patients during the holiday season and encouraged families not to host their usual gatherings. Now that the season is over and the surge has presumably lessened, many Chicagoans are ready to resume life as "normal" and get back to spending time at their favorite bars and restaurants.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to dine indoors, we are all aware that the virus is more likely to spread in colder weather and in enclosed spaces. Ordering takeout is still a very viable (and safe) option if you are looking to support your favorite local restaurants, but if you plan to dine in this season, take precautions seriously. For the sake of yourself and those who are serving you, wear your mask when speaking to your server. Wear your mask when you walk through a restaurant to go to the restroom. Wear your mask over your nose.
Make it a habit to wash your hands before and after eating, and if soap and water is not accessible, carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you. Tip your servers well, as they are putting themselves at risk everyday to make a living. Most importantly, do not leave your home if you are feeling sick or know that you have been exposed to COVID-19.
Having the option to dine indoors during these challenging times is a privilege. Respect those around you by following the proper precautions to keep yourself and others safe. If the privilege is abused, restaurants who are struggling to survive will likely be forced to close again. Do your part and wear your mask.