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What to know about eating out during the coronavirus pandemic

Here's what you need to know about takeout and delivery options in an age of coronavirus caution.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, many are panicking about whether or not they can indulge in their favorite eatery through take-away or delivery, or if they should start making meals at home.

While it is normal to be nervous, it is absolutely safe to treat yourself and order takeout.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19."

The bigger risk is person-to-person transmission. However, restaurants and food establishments take many precautions—such as handwashing, sanitizing, and safe food handling—to minimize this risk.

Restaurants regularly get inspected by health officials in order to ensure that food is being handled safely. In order to pass a health inspection, restaurants must meet a number of criteria.

According to Sacramento County's website, "All inspections are conducted with the intent to observe conditions which may contribute to food-borne illness. All problems noted during the inspection are brought to the attention of the management and violations are pursued to correction."

Food trucks, too, are inspected.

But, it is certainly best to be cautious. Ultimately, it comes down to what you are comfortable with and how you are feeling. 

Even with curbside pick-up and contact-less handoffs, you want to minimize the social interaction aspect. Food delivery services are always available, with many systems offering a "Leave at my door" option. 

With health officials urging people to stay home in the wake of COVID-19, food delivery companies are busy.

Delivery systems are essential for the elderly and people with underlying health issues or for those who are perhaps having difficulty finding necessary items due to panic buying. As COVID-19 continues to spread, at-risk people will depend on remaining isolated—thus, they may rely on delivery systems to get food, toiletries, medications, and other necessary items.

Instacart rolled out a new "Leave at My Door Delivery" option, due in part to increased interest in "non-contact" deliveries. Postmates also rolled out a similar feature on Friday.

"Leave at My Door Delivery" was originally designed to provide a more flexible option for customers that may not be home at the time of delivery," Instacart wrote in a blog post announcing the rollout.

However, Instacart says that over the last week, the company saw a "significant surge" in consumers using the feature, prompting Instacart to make it available to all customers.

The delivery system still poses a small risk of infection but can be safer than going out into crowded grocery stores, restaurants, or risking person-to-person contact.

COVID19 BACKGROUND

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine; however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

WHY HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE SO CONCERNED

Some people have compared the low overall death toll to the flu's high annual death toll in the United States as a reason not to be concerned about COVID-19, however, doctors and health officials are concerned for three main reasons:

  1. There's no vaccine yet and won't be one for until early 2021, at the soonest. Scientists are still researching what other medications could help patients. 
  2. Some people have built up immunity to the flu, but few have immunity to COVID-19 version of coronavirus
  3. Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread by droplets, but COVID-19 might be spread in the air. Scientists are researching exactly how COVID-19 spreads.

HEAR FROM DOCTORS:

Dr. Payal Kohli, a cardiologist & doctor of internal medicine, spoke with ABC10's Walt Gray about the novel coronavirus, those most at risk, vaccine timeline, & more.

WATCH MORE: Coronavirus Q&A: Medical expert Dr. Payal Kohli answers questions about COVID-19