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Takeout vs. delivery: Which is safer during the coronavirus outbreak?

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / MARCH 16 A sign posted in a restaurant window in the Chinatown-International District advises of only takeout orders Monday, in Seattle. Harvard Medical School advises against ordering takeout during the outbreak, while the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says it’s safe, as long as you practice social distancing with restaurant staff.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / MARCH 16

    A sign posted in a restaurant window in the Chinatown-International District advises of only takeout orders Monday, in Seattle. Harvard Medical School advises against ordering takeout during the outbreak, while the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says it’s safe, as long as you practice social distancing with restaurant staff.

As the coronavirus prompts more restaurants to close dining rooms, a debate grows over whether takeout or delivery service are safer options.

Opinions differ among experts.

Harvard Medical School advises against ordering takeout during the outbreak, while the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says it’s safe, as long as you practice social distancing with restaurant staff.

“Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19,” the Food & Drug Administration says on a website devoted to the virus.

“Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects.”

That means it’s still critical to wash your hands after food service transactions and to avoid letting the food touch possibly contaminated surfaces, the administration says.

When it comes to takeout vs. delivery, having food delivered is the riskier option, experts say.

Food delivery workers are in the business of meeting strangers, so they face “higher exposure to customers who may be sick,” according to Eater.com.

Dr. Jeff Kwong of the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto tells Global News the best option may be having drivers leave the food at the door — a burgeoning food service called “contactless delivery.”

“The option of contactless delivery was first made available in China — where the outbreak originated — by companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks,” Global News reports.

Multiple delivery services are now offering it, including Postmates and Uber Eats, which says its customers “can leave a note in the Uber Eats app to ask your delivery person to leave your food at the door.”

However, even with person-to-person contact eliminated, Harvard Medical School says takeout and delivery aren’t worth the risk.

“Prepare your own food rather than going to a restaurant or even getting takeout,” the school says on a site devoted to the virus.

“If you need to get food, staples, medications or health care, try to stay at least six feet away from others, and wash your hands thoroughly after the trip, avoiding contact with your face and mouth throughout.”

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