Arlington, VA

With the start of Northern Virginia’s “Phase 2” reopening nearly two weeks ago, diners could again enjoy a meal indoors at a restaurant.

But how many people are actually doing that?

A growing scientific consensus suggests that coronavirus — a respiratory infection that spreads via airborne droplets — infects most prolifically in confined indoor spaces, when one is exposed for an extended period of time to someone who has the virus, particularly if that person is doing a lot of talking or singing. That makes restaurants and churches potentially fertile ground for the spread of COVID-19.

Nonetheless, in Phase 2 restaurants are allowed to open at 50% capacity indoors. Soon, if the state moves to Phase 3, the capacity limitation could be lifted.

Phase 1 allowed outdoor dining in Virginia, but outdoor transmission of the virus is believed to be much less common than indoors — part of the reason why the wave of mass protests across the U.S. did not result in a large wave of infection. Meanwhile, coronavirus is currently surging throughout much of the South and Sun Belt, hot places where people are spending more time indoors and where businesses started reopening earlier in the pandemic.

One will find few arguments against supporting local restaurants by dining outside or ordering takeout, but indoor dining is still making some people wary, despite mitigation measures like spread out tables, servers wearing masks and frequent cleaning.

On the other hand, Arlington has been reporting relatively few new cases as of late, including just seven new cases overnight. The fewer infections in a given area, the lower the chance of getting infected — though the reported numbers are likely a fraction of the actual number of infections, including asymptomatic cases.

Have you gone back to dining out, inside a restaurant, or are you not quite ready to do that yet?

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