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Coronavirus Precautions: In Restaurants, at the Drive-Thru and Everywhere Else. OH Really?

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Kabir Bhatia
Restaurants are requiring staff to wear masks at drive-thrus, but a listener asks whether servers at outdoor restaurants have to wear masks if it's over 65 degrees outside.

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in Ohio, our OH Really? team is answering your questions.

The first question we received this week, anonymously, is from a couple who was eating lunch at an outdoor restaurant patio. Their server told them she wasn't required to wear a mask if the temperature was 65 or over. So they wanted to know, ‘does that make any sense?’

We’ll start with Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

“The server is required to wear a mask. It does not matter what the temperature is," Skoda said. "What she's referring to there is an exemption in the rule if you work over an open flame [or] if you're cooking in a restaurant or you're working over a really hot in environment like a pizza oven or a fryer. Then there are some exemptions for workers, and they do not have to wear a mask for safety reasons. It has nothing to do with the outdoor temperature.”

Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious disease specialist with the Cleveland Clinic, adds that “this virus doesn't particularly care what the temperature is. So whether [it’s] 65 or 45, everybody needs to be wearing a mask. Even at an outdoor restaurant patio, certainly the servers -- who are going from table-to-table and in-and-out of the kitchen – must be wearing a mask. And if you're at a restaurant and somebody who's serving you is not wearing a mask -- I suggest you leave.”

WKSU recently produced several stories on local restaurants, and at the drive-thru, masks were required for staff. But for guests, they felt there is decent air flow at the drive-thru window, it’s a brief encounter and you’re in your own car where you’re unlikely to be wearing a mask already. So masks were not required for guests at every drive-thru.

What to do after a recovery

John Riehl from Strongsville says he and his wife had COVID-19 with slow but steady improvement in their symptoms. He wants to know what precautions to take after symptoms disappear.

Donna Skoda from Summit County Public Health says, “the CDC recommendation currently is that once you’re 10 days since your symptoms have started, and you are 24 hours without a fever or fever-reducing medicine -- like Tylenol or Advil -- you are allowed to go about your business. You do have some immunity and, right now, it looks like it's about 90 days. You can go through your normal activity, but again, remember there's a lot about this virus we don't know yet. So, I will tell you to still take precautions [and] wash your hands; there's other things out there you can get as well, like the regular old flu. But as far as COVID restricting your activity at that point, it would not be.”

With all the mask-wearing we’re doing, could that impact flu season? Might we be in for less spread of the flu this year? Dr. Kristin Englund from Cleveland Clinic says, “our true hope is that we're going to see a quieter flu season this year. It would be great in other flu seasons if we were all to wear masks and use hand sanitizer and stay a distance. Those are just common practice to try and cut down on the spread of any kind of a virus. So if we're careful in doing that to avoid getting COVID, it should help us to be able to be safe from influenza as well. Fingers crossed; we're hoping that we're going to be able to see those numbers stay low. Unfortunately, though, when we see the number of COVID cases rising exponentially right now, that's also telling me that people are not necessarily following these rules, so they are at risk for both COVID-19 and influenza.”

If you have a question about coronavirus, you submit it below or at our coronavirus 4-1-1 page.

“OH Really?” is WKSU’s podcast which makes you part of the reporting process.


Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.