Food in the Covid-19 Era
During this time when Covid-19 is the subject on most everyone's mind, many are wondering how safe it is to order from local restaurants. Here in Ontario, Canada, where I live, being able to walk into a restaurant and sit down and eat a meal ended back on March 16, 2020 when the provincial government declared a state of emergency regarding the Covid-19 outbreak. The majority of restaurants shut down immediately to comply with the recently announced government request, but there were those that continued to stay open for some time until the government made it known that those who did not comply would be facing large fines and possibly prison time. Although the new rules made it illegal for patrons to sit in a restaurant and order a sit-down meal, the government allowed restaurants to continue providing take-out and delivery services allowing restaurants to continue to generate some income and possibly keep their heads above water to survive the pandemic and hopefully go to business as usual once this is all over. The majority of restaurants still had to lay off most of their employees and quickly adapt to the reality of their new limitations. While many of the larger chain restaurants are able to afford to advertise the changes in their new service models, the smaller restaurants simply don't have that budget and must rely on other methods to let the public know they are still able to provide services in a limited way. Given the current situation, many people are staying home to comply with various government requests and as such, are watching much more television and have no doubt seen the many advertisements now being broadcasted by the larger chain restaurants. It is estimated that the amount of time people are watching television has increased by almost 70%, so larger chain restaurants can have some confidence their advertisements are being viewed.
Cleanliness in Restaurants
With Covid-19, it stands to reason that people will be much more vigilant when it comes to cleanliness, and I would think that it would also apply to their homes, vehicles and especially their food. Governments have suggested that restaurants that have stayed open and have opted to provide their food through the takeout and delivery options, spend additional time to ensure their restaurants are clean and that additional precautions are taken to ensure that the food being served will not be carrying the risk of infection through workers who may have contracted the Covid-19 virus and are now handling food. I often walk by local restaurants on my daily walks with my dog and have often seen the staff inside wiping down surfaces and cleaning the window where food is passed through to customers. When it comes to delivery, most restaurants utilize third party services such as Ubereats or Doordash. I have little doubt that the delivery drivers would use precautions when it comes to picking up and delivering food and again, I have seen the way some drivers pass the food deliveries off to the customer.
Would I Order Food from a Restaurant?
The short answer is no, I would not. I'm sure there are many who will disagree with my reasoning, and that's fine. I feel in this time with the whole world at war with an unseen enemy, we need to have as much control of our personal environments as possible. We all must eat and drink to sustain ourselves and to help our bodies better be able to fight off infections if it's needed. When I go out for a walk with my dog, I can control how close I get to other people and I can ensure that I meet that 6-foot criteria our government and healthcare professionals have suggested. When I am at home and feel a need to have something to eat, I know that I have taken the time to properly wash the food and prepare it, or that my wife has taken the same care whenever she cooks, which is the majority of the time. I do not have that level of control when I'm picking food up at a restaurant drive-thru window or having it delivered. I don't know who prepared the food or what steps they took to ensure it was done safely. I don't know if the delivery driver that handled my food isn't infected with the Covid-19 virus and may have left it on the box of food they are leaving at my door. I must also consider that the food industry doesn't pay employees well and that most are working for minimum wage and may have no choice to go to work to pay their bills. Many of these employees didn't fare so well when they were sick before this pandemic and staying home, what makes one think that the circumstances are any different now? For myself, the issue is all about the control of my immediate environment and knowing the food I am eating has been properly processed and had no chance of contamination before reaching myself.
Are any Restaurants Safe?
I am sure there are restaurants that are fine and take every precaution to ensure the food they are serving is safe and that there are no chances of contamination. There are now commercials on television where restaurants are emphasizing that the food they are preparing for takeout and delivery is done so with contactless procedures. There are many people on the frontlines who have my gratitude for stepping up and putting themselves at risk who are putting in long hours and need to be able to nourish themselves and may not have the energy or time to prepare home cooked meals. Clearly, there is a need to restaurants to stay open and there are those who need to use them to ensure they stay healthy and not become malnourished. Not long ago, I was of the opinion that the restaurants that would be the safest to order from would be the chain restaurants as they typically have managers and supervisors who would be overseeing the food preparation and also checking employees for any signs of illness and sending those home who did not meet the specified criteria. That was the case until recently when we learned that a McDonald's restaurant in our local area found an employee tested positive for Covid-19 and was at work while infected. So perhaps my thoughts on the chain restaurants is wrong and that it may be the smaller family owned restaurants that are safer. In any case, I will continue to have my meals prepared at home and in those instances where we are preparing something that was previously cooked comes out of our freezer, it will be thoroughly cooked in our microwave.
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