The risk of coronavirus transmission is lower for outdoor than for indoor dining in almost every case, and the safest course of all is staying at home. But if you do decide to eat inside a restaurant, try to go at an hour when it’s less crowded. Before you sit down, take a quick look around. If the management doesn’t seem to be taking things like airflow and masks seriously, public health experts suggest eating somewhere else.

“A poorly ventilated indoor space with people talking is the virus’s dream,” said Lindsey J. Leininger, a clinical professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

You should leave if you notice:

— Stuffy, stale air.

— Crowds standing around the host station or anywhere else. (Outdoor host stands are a good idea.)

— Tables that are too close together. The distance between customers who aren’t seated together should be at least 6 feet, although some experts, like Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, recommend 10 feet.

— Noise. People who talk when not wearing a mask are a risk. People who talk loudly, shout or sing without a mask are a bigger risk.

— Servers who linger at the table or who drop their masks at any time.


Consider staying if you see:

— Windows and doors that are open to let in fresh air.

— Window fans that face out. (Beware of fans that face in and of floor fans, which could move virus-laden particles around the dining room.)

— Portable air purifiers with HEPA filters.

— Movable partitions, although they are not an invincible force.

— Carafes of water on the table, ordering by app and other ways of speeding up or avoiding interactions with servers.