Q: My elderly mother lives in another New England state. Restrictions are being lifted in her county allowing most businesses to resume operation as long as they follow safe guidelines for social distancing. My mother and her neighbor have missed their weekly outing for lunch and shopping. She called and asked me if I thought it was OK for them to go out to a restaurant. My first reaction is to say NO! I would like to provide her with a list of things to consider in order for her to make an informed decision. How do I frame an answer?
A: Many states across the country are beginning to reopen in phases. In some, this reopening is based on reduced numbers of COVID-19 community transmission cases or hospitalizations. As time passes and restrictions are lifted, many of us will have to consider the fact that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should be doing it. For your mother, she likely falls in the category of a population that is at high risk of contracting the virus due to her age. This is not a matter of age discrimination but a scientific proven reality.
The goal for all parts of the country is to restore the economy, have all businesses operating once again and somehow do this while containing the spread of COVID-19. If your mother and her neighbor are determined to take a chance and go out to eat there are several observations they should be making when they arrive at the restaurant.
Crowding is a red flag, whether that be standing in line at the hostess stand or waiting to pay (if that is not done directly at the table). Blackboard menus or disposable paper menus cut down the chance of cross contamination. Are tables set up far enough apart to practice social distancing? Are all staff wearing face coverings? Outdoor dining is preferable when available. Consumers are encouraged to wear face coverings and only remove them while eating. If ever there was a time to eat and run now is that time.
Everyone wants to return to their normal routine as soon as possible. Each individual is responsible for making a decision when it is feasible for their personal situation to do this. There are going to be people who are ready to throw caution to the wind and others who will wait awhile longer before venturing out.
As of this time many states have not reintroduced inside dining so these are factors to consider when that becomes possible where you reside.
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Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.