Beginning today, many businesses in Connecticut are reopening to full capacity. Some of these businesses include gyms, libraries, museums and, among others, restaurants.
Although COVID-19 cases in Connecticut have been decreasing overall, it is much too early to consider opening many of these facilities, namely restaurants. In a restaurant, for obvious reasons, it is impossible to wear a mask. Especially given the fact that restaurant workers are not being prioritized on the vaccine schedule, their lives are being put at unnecessary risk.
The pandemic is not over, as we keep hearing. It is too early to open these businesses where it is impossible to wear a mask adequately and practice social distancing. Instead of going out to restaurants now, it would be much safer to either wait at least until the weather gets nicer and outdoor dining is a more viable option or to consider take-out options instead.
In September, studies led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that COVID-19-positive patients were three to four times more likely to report dining at a restaurant, going to a bar or a coffee shop when compared to control patients that were COVID-19-negative. Reports in restaurants have been linked to air circulation; since masks cannot be worn effectively while eating or drinking, going to a restaurant has many more risks than other activities, such as going shopping.
This affects the University of Connecticut as well. With so many restaurants in close proximity, such as in Storrs Center, having restaurants open at full capacity may increase the cases at UConn, especially given that UConn students frequent these restaurants. Given that UConn is now in the “blue zone,” and certain rules, such as having guests in rooms, are more relaxed, the reopening of restaurants around UConn could affect the overall number of cases immensely.
UConn is also not very isolated from the larger Mansfield population, which may pose a risk to many Mansfield residents. With restaurants and other facilities opening to accommodate a full capacity, if UConn students are not cautious enough, Mansfield may also see a spike in cases.
It is much too early for these facilities, especially restaurants, to be opening to this degree. When the pandemic is clearly not over yet, and given that there are other mutated strains of COVID-19 which less information is known about, these restrictions should not have been lifted so early. The state of Connecticut and UConn have a responsibility to its population to ensure safety and health; reopening too early is putting the population at risk. Both Connecticut and UConn should reconsider easing restrictions in order to protect the overall population.
Unfortunately, the only things UConn students can do in light of this reopening are to continue to practice recommended hygiene measures, such as wearing a mask, washing their hands and maintaining social distancing. In addition, UConn students should remember that even though these restaurants and other establishments are reopening, other options are still much safer, such as ordering takeout and waiting until the weather gets more manageable for outdoor dining. Just because these restrictions are being lifted does not mean that the pandemic is over and the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 is gone.