I admit it. My wife and I like to eat out.
We like to have breakfast at all times of day. We like a good grilled burger. And sometimes we’re just too tired from our busy jobs to think about cooking something up at home.
But over the last few months, our outlook has changed — thanks to the arrival of the coronavirus in our community.
At first, we were cautious — only frequenting our favorite spots and checking to make sure cleaning and social distancing protocols were being followed.
In fact, we stopped going to one of our favorite eateries because we observed on more than one occasion that the servers were not wearing masks.
After the governor shut down restaurants’ eat-in dining service statewide, we had to become more self-sufficient.
We bought more nonperishable food for our pantry and stocked up on items we could make quick meals with.
Now and then we would order takeout, usually pizza or wings — nothing too exotic.
Overall, we were coping pretty well and trying to eat healthy. But we were bored.
We really wanted to go out and eat again.
As restaurants started reopening, we began to venture out — masks in place — to some of our old spots.
We were surprised to see tables removed, others spaced far apart, and in one restaurant, cardboard partitions erected between the booths.
Still, we were glad to have the opportunity to eat out again.
We were always careful wherever we went, washing our hands, using sanitizer and always using our masks.
We were confident that we were doing what we needed to do, and we were hopeful that the restaurants we visited were doing the same.
But last week, we were surprised when one of our favorite places, the Cracker Barrel in Harker Heights, shut down its dining room.
The Bell County Health District reports that two employees of the restaurant had a suspected positive COVID-19 test using a non-FDA approved test. As far as the health district is concerned, there are no confirmed cases connected to the restaurant.
Nevertheless, Cracker Barrel closed its doors to eat-in guests and the facility was rigorously cleaned for a full week before reopening earlier this week.
Still the incident got my attention. My wife and I had just eaten at Cracker Barrel the night before it closed down its dining area.
We had to wonder if we had been exposed to a worker who was potentially contagious.
Still, that didn’t stop us from heading over there Wednesday when we learned they had reopened.
When we got there, the crowd of diners was bigger than normal for a weeknight, so we were glad to see so many others had confidence in the restaurant’s response to the possible health issue.
My wife and I realize this is just part of living in the new normal brought about by the coronavirus.
We know that just going out is a risk — whether it’s to the grocery store, a local retailer or a restaurant.
The virus isn’t going away anytime soon. We can’t hide in our homes for weeks at a time and wait for this to pass.
That doesn’t mean taking unnecessary chances. And it certainly doesn’t mean ignoring the public health protocols we need to reduce the virus’ spread.
But we still like to eat out, and so we will. Maybe less frequently, and maybe more cautiously, but we’ll keep supporting our favorite dining spots.
Besides, we all need to keep some normalcy in our lives in these often discouraging times, right?
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for Opinion for the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald.