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L.A. Times: Is Sharing Food at Korean Barbecue Safe?

Comedian Sherry Cola and Los Angeles Times reporter Ada Tseng recently sat down for Korean barbecue with Cedars-Sinai infectious disease specialist Catherine Le, MD, to discuss dining at restaurants again as the pandemic eases. Tseng featured the conversation in a Times series about how to safely enjoy a night out in L.A.'s Koreatown neighborhood after the reopening of California businesses last month.

Cola and Tseng sought Le's help assessing their risk for catching the virus that causes COVID-19 when eating at a restaurant given that masks and other safety measures are now optional and many diners in L.A. are now vaccinated.

Le told Cola and Tseng that the risk of transmitting COVID-19 during family-style meals—where everyone is sharing food—is low for fully vaccinated people. "If I'm with friends and I know everybody's vaccination status, I'm fine with communal eating," said Le, who is co-director of the Cedars-Sinai COVID-19 Recovery Program.

Diners should check community vaccination rates and prevalence of COVID-19 in the area to better assess their risk, Le said. She added that asking for serving utensils, or serving from communal dishes with the ends of chopsticks that are not used for eating, can add a layer of protection.

"Especially within the Asian community, food is such a communal thing," Le told Cola and Tseng. "Everything's family style. I think that we're just a little bit more conscious about small decisions that we make."

Le offered similar advice about safely navigating spas, a karaoke bar and a comedy show in Koreatown in other parts of the L.A. Times series.

Click here for the complete story and video on restaurant dining and here for the whole series from the L.A. Times.