Is eating a self-serve buffet risky while COVID-19 is still a threat?
HuffPo reports in many areas of the country -- particularly in resort cities like Las Vegas -- buffets are back with some changes and modifications. But should you be dining at a buffet when infections are on the rise in certain areas?
The pandemic forced Vegas buffets to close multiple times, but now 8 major buffets have reopened in the popular vacation city. Jason Duarte, the executive chef at The Buffet at the Wynn, tells HuffPo steps have been taken to ensure better safety, like using "a 60-40 self-service ratio (60% self-serve and 40% individual plates." But, other Vegas buffets have returned to 100 percent self-serve. Many buffets have ramped up their cleaning procedures, for example at The Wynn, the buffet area is wiped down every 30 minutes and the serving utensils are changed every 10 to 15 minutes, along with installing partitions between patrons, servers, and the food.
"I think health and sanitation is an absolute paramount and I think these practices should just stay in place so we can always serve the hottest, freshest and safest food possible for our guests. If we continue with these sanitation practices, it’s only going to make us stronger. We had strict health and sanitation practices prior to the pandemic, so really it’s just an added extra half an hour that we have to do our sanitation, but I’m OK with that," Wynn’s executive chef explains.
While many of the Vegas buffets have returned, restaurants like Old Town Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, Golden Corral, Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation, and Sizzler have either permanently closed or closed many locations or filed for bankruptcy.
The Doctors note when the pandemic began The CDC issued the following guidance (which the health agency is still advising), "Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stations. This limits the use of shared serving utensils, handles, buttons, or touchscreens and helps customers to stay seated and at least 6 feet apart from people who do not live in their household." The CDC also noted at the time, "There is no current evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.”
Though the primary way COVID is believed to be transmitted is through respiratory droplets, HuffPo notes, "The virus can feasibly lurk on serving spoons or other items that customers touch at a buffet, and infect someone whose hand touches their mouth."
If you plan on eating at a buffet, washing or sanitizing your hands before and after touching shared utensils, handles, buttons or touchscreens may help to reduce your risk of infection -- along with getting vaccinated for COVID-19 if you have not done so. Find out where to get your free COVID-19 vaccine, here.