eating in during a pandemic

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 3.06.25 PM.png

There are many things to keep someone from eating out, such as lack of funds, 30-day waits for reservations, or seeing a rat run across the dining room (something that actually happened to me many years ago at a prominent brunch establishment in Austin). But who woulda thunk that we would have to deal with a pandemic? Yet here we are.

The pandemic is troubling for many reasons, especially the exponential growth in cases and the estimated 1 percent mortality rate that, if left unchecked, could kill 2.2 million Americans and many more millions across the planet. But it’s also troubling for our economy, and especially troubling for the restaurant industry. Therefore, I hope that you are taking social distancing seriously to put this pandemic in check. It will save lives.

So where does that leave restaurants? I’m not a medical doctor (although I am a doctor scientist seriously geeking out on all of this), but if you’re 60 or older, I would be staying away from people until this all blows over. In large part, this is because of the elevated mortality rates for our more seasoned citizens:

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Meanwhile, for the rest of us, this is risk management. Any step out of the house into the public involves some risk of getting infected. The following chart estimates the risk for increasing levels of active cases and crowd size:


In short, the risk goes up with increasing number of active cases and with increasing size of the group. In short-short, as long your exposure to people is minimal, the risk is still there, but it is low.

Many restaurants in Austin are now offering take-out options after the city (and, just today, the state) shut down eating at restaurants. If you are comfortable with the risk and can afford it, you should partake of take-out as much as you can to help out the industry and the people it supports.

The Peached Tortilla (photo at top) is one of ’em, and they do a pretty good job of curbsiding. I was overjoyed to see a number of people partaking of the Tortilla’s take-out offer (although it increased risk..) and also appreciated that the clientele was practicing social distancing (at least six feet) while waiting for their chow. It was also great that the Tortilla brought foodstuffs outside where moving air and sunlight reduces the risk of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, the Tortilla doesn’t accept payment online, so I had to use their pen to sign (note to self: start bringing your own damn pen). Also consider tipping more heavily if you can afford it (we’re doing twice normal). After getting home and handling the packages, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands. CultureMap has a list of Austin restaurants offering take-out/curbside (but be sure to check with each restaurant as this is a rapidly developing situation).

As things develop, I’m hoping to see restaurants post how they are monitoring staff for fevers and social distancing, how they are cleaning surfaces at the restaurant, and how they will handle and communicate when an employee is diagnosed with covid-19. Attention to the details such as minimizing customer interactions with surface is also appreciated.

And the take-out food from The Peached Tortilla? Fantastic as usual. Another way to think about eating take-out is that it preserves your canned/jarred stash of chow (reducing trips to the craziness of the grocery store) in case the poo really hits the fan.

Eat, my friends, while the eatin’s good!

Some relevant articles:

This is how to safely receive packages and deliveries during the coronavirus

It’s No Longer Responsible to Dine Out at Restaurants, but What About Delivery and Takeout?



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