April 02, 2021

Statement on JAMA’s, “Mask Mandates, On-Premises Dining, and COVID-19”

Today, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) unfairly targeted restaurants and ignored that there is no evidence that directly links COVID-19 outbreaks to restaurants. 

As states have reopened, and in some cases eliminated mask mandates, all types of public establishments have reopened including gyms, retail establishments, places of worship, stand-alone bars, event venues, and more. The myopic focus on restaurants as the cause of COVID-19 transmission is flawed. Moreover, today’s virus transmission environment is dramatically different than it was in 2020. The study authors rely on data gathered from March 2020 through December 2020. Due to the work of their other colleagues in the scientific community (who are committed to fact-based evidence gathering and proper application of the scientific method), there are now several vaccines in widespread distribution. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, the National Restaurant Association has worked with federal agencies, academic and public health experts, and others to develop and update guidance for restaurants to use to protect both employees and their customers. The National Restaurant Association continues to emphasize safe operating guidance for the industry. From ongoing use of face coverings to social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing and effective air circulation, restaurateurs remain committed to providing safe dining experiences for their customers. As restaurants slowly reopen, they are doing so with ongoing guidance from the Association and in strict compliance with all federal, state, and local guidelines. 

The National Restaurant Association will soon complete its own study. Of 3,500 restaurants who replied to a survey in late 2020, only 40 identified experiencing “clusters” of the virus.  Nearly all of those cases involved employees who contracted the virus from community spread. As our researchers continue to interview both operators and public health officials where the clusters occurred, they have not encountered any evidence to suggest customers contracted the virus at those locations.

About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.6 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.