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As S.C. eateries reopen to full capacity, what’s your risk?

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 11:31 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Eating out in South Carolina hasn’t looked the same since May, but that’s expected to change with COVID-19 restrictions now lifted at restaurants.

But Augusta University’s chief medical officer says there’s still a risk that comes with indoor dining.

Eight months into the pandemic, and restaurants have been coping with the strain.

“It’s been pretty bad. We struggled. But we survived,” said Michael Allen, owner of City Billiards in Aiken.

First, they shut down to prevent the spread. Then they were limited to control the spread. But now, South Carolina is allowing them to host a full-house again.

“It’s certainly not the riskiest thing that you could do. It’s somewhere in the middle. And I would say a moderate risk,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer of AU.

While some Aiken restaurants are staying limited for now, others like City Billiards are taking the risk.

“We definitely bought less food. Right now, we’re back to 100 percent plus capacity, its buying food, keeping up with the crowd,” Allen said.

Coule says we still don’t know how much restaurants contribute to spreading the virus, but there are some concerns.

“Probably the most important factors are distance from other people and the airflow. And again, that’s the part that’s really complicated that we don’t fully understand,” he said. “The worst-case scenario is inside a crowded space where the tables would be right up on top of each other with a portable air conditioner blowing across another table directly on to you.”

Still, the greatest threat is the person who serves you, he says.

“The worst-case scenario is that a server has a pre-symptomatic case of COVID-19. And in that two days prior to becoming ill, that they come into contact with a large number of patrons,” Coule explained.

While restaurants have some responsibility – so do you.

“So, this is a fine line to walk... And then also some common sense on the part of the individual to say, this restaurant is too crowded, I’m not going to stay here,” Coule said.

Coule also says the best thing you can do if you choose to dine out is to practice the guidelines, we know work -- and wear a mask if you get up from your table to move around a restaurant.

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