The Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing a Mask while Dining Out

Restaurants are letting people back in, but you still need to take precautions.

Restaurants in metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia are reopening their dining rooms, and many people are venturing back in.

Even with tables spaced 6 feet apart, you need to take precautions to limit your exposure to the coronavirus. One of those is wearing your face mask. But how do you do that and still eat?

Before you go

The first thing you need to do is make sure everyone you’re going to dine with is negative for the coronavirus, especially if they don’t live in your house.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta also recommends:

  • Check the restaurant’s website and social media to see if they have updated their information to address any COVID-19 safety guidelines.
  • Before you go to the restaurant, call and ask if all staff are wearing masks while at work.
  • Ask about options for self-parking to remove the need for a valet service.

When entering the restaurant

Whenever possible, maintain 6 feet of distance between other patrons and wear a mask.

Although your first instinct might be to wash your hands in the bathroom, doctors told HuffPost that isn’t your best option these days.

“Heading to the restroom means walking back through the restaurant to your table ― with all the possibilities for recontamination ― and then taking your mask off,” HuffPost wrote.

Instead, Dr. Vivek Cherian told HuffPost, “use a personal hand sanitizer that you bring along with you (and) handle the mask by its straps to avoid possible transfer between the mask and your hands.”

What to do with your mask once you remove it

Cherian suggested bringing a paper lunch bag or small mesh laundry bag, so your mask can dry while staying germ-free.

“When you are eating at a restaurant, the last place you want to put the mask after you remove it is on the table,” Cherian told HuffPost.

“COVID is transmitted via respiratory droplets, which can occur even when people are talking,” he explained. “So just having a simple conversation with your friend and family can cause droplets to land on and contaminate your mask.”

Aaron Rossi, a doctor and CEO of Reditus Laboratories, has another solution.

“I would advise people to utilize the elasticity in masks to roll them up on one’s wrist while dining,” he said, which will help prevent exposure to other contaminants.

“Placing both of the elastic straps around your wrist, with the inside of the mask (the part that comes in contact with your mouth) folded inward on itself, means you’re essentially wearing the mask like a bracelet,” HuffPost wrote.

If you don’t roll up your mask, however, the CDC does not recommend wearing your mask on your arm.

As the above CDC illustration points out, you also should not dangle your mask from one ear or wear it around your neck.

Mask chains and lanyards — similar to those used for eyeglasses or work badges, are gaining popularity, but Kent New, who has a Ph.D. in virology, told HuffPost you risk contaminating the inside of your mask when you use one.

“Allowing the inside of the mask to be exposed to air droplets breathed out by others defeats the purpose of wearing the mask. You are better off putting it away until you are finished eating,” he said.

When you’re done eating, repeat the steps when you sat down: “First sanitize your hands and then use the ear straps to place the mask over your nose and mouth,” HuffPost wrote.

By Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution