The CDC says indoor dining is risky. Restaurants in Miami are hard to adapt.


When managers at the All Day coffee bar convened for their Sunday meeting on March 11, co-owner Camila Ramos could feel that major changes had taken place in the food and beverage industry. Although it was 24 hours before the mayor of Miami-Dade County declared a state of emergency, Ramos and her team began devising plans of what to do if coronavirus cases began to spread locally.

“We met with the managers and said,‘ Hey, guys, you know it hasn’t hit us yet, but it’s only a matter of time, ’Ramos recalls.

On that day, the cafe in the center of the city agreed to switch to disposable utensils, conducted an hourly sanitary schedule and issued gloves to all employees. Later that night, officials announced the first COVID-19 case in Miami-Dade County.

That was six months ago. At the time, restaurants like All Day faced one challenge, while state and local officials stopped local dining in mid-March and introduced curfew. Indoor and outdoor dining resumed in mid-May, but after a rush of cases, indoor dining were closed in early July, and outdoor dining remains the only option during the hottest months of the year. In late August, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez lifted the ban on closed meals, allowing restaurants to reopen their dining rooms with a capacity of 50 percent.

Last week, the industry was rocked by another seismic development when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the study which shows that among the 314 adults surveyed with a positive COVID test, they were about twice as likely to go to a restaurant as those who had a negative test. There were no similar findings for people who went to the gym, attended religious services, or used public transportation.

Restaurant lobby groups immediately cried, issuing statements questioning the study methodology and arguing that the public could misinterpret the findings.

“The study was not conducted in Florida and irresponsibly seeks to blame dinner with COVID-19 positive cases in other states, while not attributing or revealing other consumer behavior prior to positive testing,” the Florida Restaurant and Accommodation Association he complained in a statement.

Although the CDC study did not ask restaurant visitors whether they eat indoors or outdoors, the agency concluded that they eat at a table in a restaurant. is riskier than choosing a seat outside, especially if the tables are separated by less than six feet.

Public health experts continue to call for caution when it comes to eating indoors.

“I think it’s probably one of the most risky behaviors you can engage in if you’re trying to avoid COVID,” says Kathleen Sposato, senior director of infection prevention at Miami’s Jackson Health System. “If you’re in a restaurant, you’re usually with someone, you’re talking too mask it is off because you cannot access food or drink if your mask is in place. It’s the perfect storm. “

Sposato compares eating at a restaurant to riding a motorcycle without a helmet: “It’s an unnecessary risk-taking.” She says she won’t have dinner until she can get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Like Sposato, dr. Terry Adirim, a senior associate dean of clinical affairs at Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine, says he intends to avoid dining rooms in restaurants and order outreach instead.

“Walking for two minutes indoors is a much lower risk of sitting and eating for an hour, an hour and a half,” she says. “I’m just not going to do it. No one I know who is a public health professional or a doctor is going to do it.”

One case that has received widespread attention is the case of a family who left Wuhan and had lunch at a restaurant in a nearby city in China back in January. One family member who unknowingly had COVID seems to have spread the virus nine more people in the restaurant, whose air conditioning was blowing in the direction of other dineries sitting near the family.

Camila Ramos, co-owner of All Day, says she read it New York Times the story of the case and she took it into account when she and co-owner Chris MacLeod decided to stick to outdoor services and not open closed seats. Like a coffee shop explained on Instagram, the air conditioning in All Day blows directly into the bar and kitchen, posing a potential hazard to employees.

“Once the dining room was open, it felt completely wrong,” Ramos says New Times. “I was like, there’s no way I’m going to open up inside.”

In July, the All Day team came in close contact when an employee’s girlfriend tested positive for COVID. Ramos and MacLeod closed the store and instructed all employees to be tested. Fortunately, the results returned negative for each member of the ten-person team, including a worker whose girlfriend had a positive test. A week later, All Day reopened with a new protocol that required employees to be tested every ten days.

So far, Ramos says, no team member has shown a positive test on COVID, which she takes as a confirmation of security measures in the store. “If the CDC says people went to restaurants that were infected, and we’re a restaurant, it shows me that while I statistically know you can’t completely eliminate your chance of transmission, the measures we’ve taken have done a pretty good job of minimizing the risk of infections, ”she says.

All Day isn’t the only local restaurant that has decided not to open for in-house service. El Bagel, which started as a food truck and opened its location of brick and mortar in early May in Miami’s Upper Eastside, intends to continue working with its online ordering and download system.

“I fucking loved having the store packed, it was like having fun with a bagel house, but the only way to safely process this amount of orders is through our website, where we can place orders and reduce human contact,” owner Matteson Koche posted on Instagram, noting how crowded the space was when El Bagel first opened.

Other restaurants are reopening on their terms. Macchialina, a restaurant on the south beach known for its pasta specialties, recently announced that the renovation of closed tables will begin on September 29 – but only for one table per night.

Stiltsville Fish Bar

Although Miami-Dade has a list of laundry requirements for restaurants that choose to reopen, some apply security measures that go far beyond what the county requires. For example, the Stiltsville fish bar in the Sunset Harbor district of Miami Beach was recently equipped with a hospital-level air purifier after the owners consulted with ScientificAir from Pompano Beach.

“Most restaurants probably aren’t able to do that, but thanks to our contacts and connections, we’ve been able to provide that and we’re very, very grateful to have that,” says Eddie Acevedo, chief operating officer of Grove Bay Hospitality Group, which owns Stiltsville, together with Red Rooster, Root & Bone, Stubborn Seed and several other restaurants around Miami.

Snack bars at Grove Bay restaurants now access menus via a QR code on the table, and servers are trained to eliminate unnecessary trips there and back to the tables. Common practice, such as serving reciters of specialties for dinner, is adapted to the COVID era.

“We realized that people didn’t order special offers because they couldn’t understand their server because they were wearing a mask,” says Acevedo. “People don’t want to be rude and be in a situation where they have to ask their server to repeat what they said.” Now the special features are highlighted on the digital menu.

Grove Bay has also created a new position for “wandering disinfectants” who are dragged behind snack bars to disinfect handles, handrails and other touched surfaces. Acevedo says most guests complied with ordering masks across the country, but curfew, which until recently was 10pm, posed some problems. Since snack bars had to go out by 10, the restaurants could not accommodate people later than 8:30. (Curfew was moved to 11 p.m. in early September.)

“Its catering component is a real challenge,” says Acevedo. “People sit in a restaurant and go out to have fun. Once we’ve set them comfort and forgotten about everything that’s going on, now we have to be bad guys when it’s time to go.”

Camila Ramos reiterated that view throughout the day, saying it was a challenge for police to wear masks, even though the number of incidents was small throughout the day.

“In the service industry, you’re strongly encouraged to say that people have their way, too,” Ramos says. “We want people to feel welcome and have a good time with us, but boundaries exist and I think this was a good lesson for us on how to communicate about boundaries.”

Above all, Ramos says he feels committed to acting as safely as possible for the greater good of the Miami community. But she admits that she is happy to have an open space to use and realizes that other business owners, especially those without an outdoor seat, are in a difficult position.

“If we didn’t have our own outdoor space, I don’t know if we would be open today. It’s a really difficult decision between social health and business,” she says. “It’s important that we understand that everyone is in a different position. For some, they either open up, or lose their jobs and go bankrupt.”

For those looking to follow CDC best practices, supporting the restaurant industry can sometimes feel like competitive value. But local experts say both goals can be achieved by ordering transportation or delivery or by looking for outdoor seating.

“Support your local restaurants, but don’t eat indoors,” says Adirim, a doctor from FAU. When you dine outdoors, she also recommends wearing it mask at the table when you are not actually eating or drinking.

Sposato, an infection specialist at Jackson, says that if you want to take a risky risk and dine indoors, call and ask about a restaurant air filtration system or natural ventilation. But in general, she recommends choosing an alternative – if not to protect yourself, then to protect restaurant employees.

“I think this is a huge risk for restaurant workers, even more than their patrons,” she says. “We need to optimize the least risky option when it comes to eating food you haven’t cooked. It’s driving, delivering, or picking up or picking up curbs.”

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