After CDC study links virus risk to dining out, L.A. County says younger people still driving new infections

After a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study suggested dining out may raise the risk of contracting COVID-19, Los Angeles County health officials reminded residents Saturday to limit non-essential activities — especially as younger people continue to drive the county’s latest infections.

The CDC study published Thursday found that adults who tested positive for the coronavirus were about twice as likely to report dining at a restaurant than people who tested negative. The majority of adults who tested positive in the study were between the ages of 18 and 44 years old.

“This serves a reminder to residents to minimize non-essential activities, like dining out, that puts them in close contact with people who aren’t in their household and creates risk of COVID-19 transmission,” L.A. County’s health department said in a news release.

Of the 1,177 new cases reported in the county Saturday, 71% were people under the age of 50 years old. The majority of them — 35% — were residents between the ages of 30 and 49 years old, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said.

“We need the help of our younger County residents to slow the spread even more than we are doing now, so that we can move into lower tiers that allow for the reopening of more business sectors and schools,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in the release. “This means this is not the time for non-essential activities and social gatherings, but a time for distancing and avoiding close contact with people you don’t live with.”

L.A. County has recorded a total of 253,176 coronavirus positive cases with 6,197 deaths. While the county’s daily coronavirus numbers have gone down since the alarming spike seen in previous months, the virus is still widespread in the county, officials said.

On the state’s new color-coded, four-tiered system to guide business sector reopenings, L.A. County remains on the purple tier, or tier 1 — the most restrictive stage, which indicates the risk level for COVID-19 transmission is “widespread.”

This means that, for now, restaurants in L.A. County can only open for outdoor dining and with modifications. Once the county moves onto the red tier, it can open its restaurants for indoor dining at 25% capacity.

The CDC’s new study did not differentiate between those who dined indoor or outdoor in the two weeks before testing positive for the coronavirus.

“Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19,” the study reads. “As communities reopen, efforts to reduce possible exposures at locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.”

The study looked at data from 314 symptomatic people in several different states, including California. They were all tested for the virus in July, and 154 of them tested positive.

Of those who tested positive, 63 said they’ve been to a restaurant and 13 said they’ve been to a bar or coffee shop, according to the CDC.

They were all also asked about whether they’ve been shopping, having home gatherings with 10 or more people or visiting gyms, salons or barbershops. There were no significant differences in those categories between those who tested positive and those who didn’t.

It’s still unclear if a study with a much larger group would have the same results.

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