As restaurants across San Diego County resume outdoor-operations, health experts are warning residents that dining out still remains risky.
“We’re just trying to be out and about and trying to be normal again,” said Kara K., San Diego resident.
The state-wide ban on outdoor dining was lifted Monday, allowing cooped up residents to finally come out and enjoy a night out.
“We’re just trying to enjoy, drink and get a breath of fresh air," said Bryan Sandoval, a San Diego diner.
For restaurants who have been struggling, the news came as a sign of relief.
“Since we closed on March 16 in 2020, obviously we have had our ups and downs with opening and closing but yesterday was one of the busiest days since then,” said Phillip Nestor, bar manager at The Field Pub and Grill.
“We can't survive on take out, we have to have people sitting down eating,” said Nestor.
While the news is positive, it comes with a strong warning.
“As understandable as it might be that we’re all burned out and want to resume our normal lives, we cannot let our guard down just yet,” said Dr. Paul Shcalch Lepe, otolaryngologist. “It’s too premature and we’re going to end up seeing a rise in cases."
According to public health data, outbreaks at restaurants fell drastically during the stay-at-home order.
“You see there the difference it makes,” said Dr. Shcalch, “These measures aren’t just arbitrary. These recommendations aren't just for the sake of doing it, they really have an impact.”
According to data compiled by the San Diego Union-Tribune, in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 3 restrictions, a total of 72 outbreaks were reported at restaurants and bars. During the seven-week closure, only four were reported.
“We cannot just relax and go back to normal as soon as we see a drop in the numbers because just like we saw in the holidays it's going to increase again,” said Dr. Shcalch.
For now, he says, its up to diners to their part.