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The CDC continues to warn the public against reopening restaurants and other businesses too soon.

New CDC study finds that on-premises restaurant dining leads to rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths

A CDC study found a correlation between allowing on-premises dining and an increase in COVID-19 rates and deaths in 2020, and that mask mandates led to a decline in both

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study on Friday that found a strong correlation between allowing on-premise dining and the rise in coronavirus cases and deaths. The report was issued as more states and cities begin to loosen COVID-19 restrictions nationwide.

According to the study — which analyzed pandemic patterns between March and December 2020 — allowing on-premises dining was linked to a 0.9, 1.2, and 1.1 percentage point increase in the growth rate of daily cases 41-100 days after implementation, and daily death rates rose 2.2 and 3.0 percentage points 61-100 days after implementation.

The study also found a positive correlation between mask mandates and an improvement in COVID-19 case numbers and deaths, with rates for both going down just 20 days after mandate implementations: up to 1.8 percentage points down for case growth rates, and 1.9 percentage points for death rates 81-100 days after implementation.

“Mask mandates and restricting any on-premises dining at restaurants can help limit community transmission of COVID-19 and reduce case and death growth rates,” the study’s authors wrote. “These findings can inform public policies to reduce community spread of COVID-19.”

The study follows CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s warning earlier this week against opening up states too soon — including rolling back mask mandates and restaurant capacity limitations — because doing so could trigger a fourth wave of the pandemic.

“This report is a critical reminder that with the current levels of Covid-19 in communities, and the continued spread of more transmissible virus variants, which have now been detected in 48 states, strictly followed prevention measures remain essential for putting an end to this pandemic,” Dr. Walensky said at a White House briefing on Friday. “It also serves as a warning about prematurely lifting these prevention measures.”

Earlier this week, multiple states and cities lifted some of the stricter COVID-19 measures in light of decreasing rates. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted face-covering mandates and business capacity limits statewide on Tuesday, effective March 10, which prompted the Texas Restaurant Association to update their guidelines Friday:

“In keeping with the public health guidance and best practices,” the association said Thursday, “our updated Texas Restaurant Promise includes a face-covering requirement for employees and encourages guests to wear a face covering when they are not seated at their table.”

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

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