Restaurants Scramble Amid Cold, COVID Surge

Indoor environment control

When it comes to indoor dining, there are many environmental controls available that could reduce the risk of transmission, said Oscar Alleyne, chief of programs and services for the National Association of County and County Health Officials. cities.

Restaurants can increase the ventilation rate in their buildings and install high-quality air filters that can filter viruses from circulating HVAC air, Alleyne said.

They can also invest in additional portable air purifiers with HEPA filters, reduce occupancy, increase space between tables and strictly enforce social distancing, he said.

“If there is an intense approach to environmental controls, that in itself would make things safer,” Alleyne said.

Tightened environmental controls won’t break the bank either, Allen added.

“It costs a few extra dollars to upgrade the filters. A good portable cleaner with a HEPA filter could cost a few hundred dollars,” Allen said. “I’m not talking about million dollar fixes.”

However, reducing the restaurant’s occupancy level to acceptable levels will seriously jeopardize its profitability, Allen said.

“If you get to the level of de-densification that would be needed to reduce the risk, I don’t know if that’s economically viable for a restaurant,” Allen said.

Restaurants have made financial changes to cope with lower capacity, Lynch said. They tightened their menus to reduce food waste and withheld the return of staff laid off during the first lockdown.

The industry continues to look for new ways to make indoor dining safer, Lynch said.

For example, the National Restaurant Association is working with a leading HVAC association on ways to further improve ventilation and air filtration in buildings, Lynch said. One idea under consideration is the modernization of anti-virus UV filters in the existing HVAC system of a building, so that the air is cleaner as it circulates.

But even if all of these steps are taken successfully, the human element remains a significant barrier to security, Allen said.

“There are many levels of risk in a restaurant,” Allen said. “It’s not just that people aren’t wearing masks at their tables. It’s volume and loud conversations, which increase emission rates. It’s alcohol consumption, which decreases ‘inhibition. It’s the mixing of several groups at tables, if you go out with friends you are not normally quarantined with.

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Jothi Venkat

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