Winter is Back. Covid Cases Are Rising. Is Indoor Dining Safe?

Regardless of the severity of the pandemic, drive-in dining is always safe. The Sycamore Drive-In is in Bethel, Connecticut, and is the closest authentic drive-in restaurant to New York City.

By Jonathan Spira on 13 November 2023
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Several days ago, due to the Veterans Day holiday, I took care of a little extra time and went out to eat.  For me, as regular readers of this space know, my approach to dining out is still the mid-2020 kind: Outdoor tables, dining sheds protected from other diners in New York City and San Francisco, and my all-time favorite, the Great American Drive-In.

Drive-in Restaurants are far and few between in the New York City metropolitan area.  The closest one is in Bethel, Connecticut, which is not where Woodstock took place.

Whether you dine indoors today is a matter of your personal risk tolerance calculus but, for me, given that science does not know what happens when a Long Covid patient gets reinfected, I’d rather not chance it.

My meal was essentially the same as one I had in late 2020 there: A Dagwood burger (hold the onions and tomatoes, please), fries well done, and a root beer float.  My dining companion had the same, albeit with a vanilla milkshake and onion rings.

When I first went to the Sycamore Drive-In in 2020, we had a deadly novel virus circulating for which we had no immunity, no vaccine, and no therapies. It was easy to make sweeping recommendations, such as “no indoor dining.”  Now the calculus is more nuanced.

If you are going to be with older or more vulnerable people during Thanksgiving or other upcoming holidays, that may influence your decision as is making sure you have your shots.

In addition, you can minimize the risk of indoor dining to some extent by going during slower times of the day and by selecting establishments where the seating is reasonably spread out.  Some people even carry a carbon dioxide detector with them to determine if the restaurant is well-ventilated. I use a non-dispersive infrared CO2 monitor that is typically spot on, although it is not a complete shield from SARS-CoV-2 of course. The Aranet professional model is considered by multiple reviewers to be the best for this purpose and I concur.

Regardless, once you enter a dining establishment that isn’t outdoors, your mileage may vary, significantly.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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