Authors of the CDC's weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) include several career scientists, many also holding PhDs, including Editor-In-Chief Charlotte K Kent, who has almost three decades of experience "directing the development, implementation, and evaluation of surveillance, epidemiologic, and health services research, and in managing public health programs at the local and federal level, including internationally".
Taking this data into account, the CDC's study observed no other "significant differences" in the group's other community activities, such as: shopping; attending gatherings of 10 people or more inside a home; attending gatherings of 10 people or less inside a home; going to the gym; visiting a salon; going into the office; taking public transportation; or visiting a place of worship.
Dr. Jake Deutsch, founder and clinical director of Cure Urgent Care in New York City, told ABC News that proceeding with caution when dining out is still important - he advised not mingling with other customers, for example - but to remain optimistic when following COVID-19 safety recommendations.
The analysis will need further validation, particularly since it did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor drinking and dining settings. Gov. Mike DeWine also signed an executive order July 31 to prohibit liquor sales after 10 p.m., and the state has been inspecting and citing bars for failing to adhere to the coronavirus restrictions. Coronavirus-positive patients were twice as likely to have gone to a bar or restaurant in the last two weeks than those who were negative, suggesting those locations drastically increased their chances of getting coronavirus. But those who dined at restaurants tested positive at a higher rate. The tests were at healthcare facilities in California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. Only 14% of those who tested negative reported close contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
The study also points out that many reported cases tied to restaurants have been linked to air circulation. But the study participants did not specify whether they ate indoors or outdoors. The CDC says more research is needed to determine whether the same results will be found in a larger sample size.
Dr. Kiva Fisher, lead author of the study, which looked at symptomatic outpatients from 11 USA health care facilities, told ABC News that "exposures and activities that make it hard to wear masks and maintain social distancing, including going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking, may be a risk factor for COVID-19".