May 26, 2022

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Indoor dining may once again be too risky due to omicron, Bay Area health experts warn

Bob Wachter, one of the Bay Area’s leading health experts on COVID-19, is no longer dining indoors because of the highly infectious omicron variant.

In a Twitter thread that went viral over the weekend, the UCSF Department of Medicine chair explained that indoor dining isn’t worth the risk for him even as San Francisco maintains a low case rate and high vaccination rate. Health experts have long maintained that indoor dining is among the riskiest activities during the pandemic because people must take their masks off to eat and drink. Meanwhile, Bay Area restaurants have started temporarily closing their dining rooms because of positive coronavirus cases among staff or simply out of an abundance of caution.

Many people who have tested positive for the omicron variant have been vaccinated, though they are largely not experiencing severe symptons; the unvaccinated are still at the highest risk.

To get a second opinion on the current safety of indoor restaurants, The Chronicle talked to Warner Greene, a virologist and senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.