Lunch at Union restaurant at the Press Hotel in Portland in May 2017. Credit: Kari Herer

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PORTLAND, Maine — As events are canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak and health officials warn people to avoid large crowds, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has some guidelines for dining out.

The new coronavirus is not transmitted by food, but primarily by respiratory droplets such as coughs, said Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine CDC.

“People who are considering dining out should base their level of precaution on their personal health situations,” he said. “If they are otherwise more at risk of experiencing harsher symptoms because of pre-existing health conditions, they should factor that into their decision-making.”

“The best personal preventive measures that individuals can take are to eat a good diet, get enough sleep, get a flu shot, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you feel sick,” he said. “Call a medical provider before going to a health care facility. Take care of yourself and be kind to others.”

Long said restaurateurs should apply the same safeguards they previously used to prevent the spread of viruses.

The Maine CDC’s Health Inspection Program, which licences and inspects restaurants in Maine, is giving this guidance to restaurants:

1. Review and reinforce employee health policies

2. Be in compliance with the Maine Food Code

3. Promote additional handwashing

4. Clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces such as hand rails, door knobs, ketchup bottles and salt shakers

5. Have standard operating procedures on cleaning, sanitizing and use of the proper chemicals

6. Provide hand sanitizers for customers before and after they use buffets

7. In facilities with air dryers only, provide paper towels in restrooms to shut off water after handwashing and to open doors.

The Maine Department of Labor also has resources for workers and businesses on its website.

Watch: What you need to know about handwashing during coronavirus

Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...