Restaurants in South Jersey have been allowed to reopen to outdoor diners this week, but here's why I'm not ready to join them.

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Trust me when I tell you I'm surprised at MYSELF for saying that. I LOVE to dine outside. I live for any al fresco situation I can find. But COVID-19 still has me second guessing everything.

I'm a pretty positive person, and I 100% believe that South Jersey restaurant owners are taking all the proper precautions to keep diners safe while coronavirus lingers. They deserve to get back to business, serving customers who've been eager to ditch their social distancing situations.

But as I passed many restaurants with their outdoor seating setups on my way home yesterday, I realized I'm just not eager to get back out there. All my friends were texting me to meet them for happy hour at one of our favorite beer halls in Atlantic City, where there are plenty of outside picnic tables and tons of open air. Instead, I drove home.

I have a compromised immune system because of the medications for an auto-immune disease, and until last week, I hadn't seen the inside of a store since the first week of March. My father is 70 and also immuno-compromised, so avoiding exposing him has also been a top priority. I had to isolate as much as possible to keep myself healthy and away from COVID-19. But as I strolled the aisles picking up essentials, I still questioned everything I was touching. In my mind I'm still thinking to myself, 'I didn't come THIS far to get the virus NOW.'

So, maybe my eating out jitters are from the fact that I've felt safe in my bubble for so long, in my contained environment, that I wonder if I'm throwing caution to the wind by suddenly allowing myself to be around too many people. I'm wondering if all the opening up is still too much, too soon.

TSM

Again, I do trust that restaurant owners want to ensure a safe environment: A limited number of diners at a time, staff in masks, disposable utensils, etc. I miss my fave outside hangouts like CRAZY. For coffee, tacos, cocktails, you name it. But, for now, I think I'll continue supporting my favorite South Jersey restaurants through take-out and delivery. And I know I'll eventually get back out there, because there's a happy hour with half-price beer and Dungeness crabs with my name on it on a particular outdoor deck in Wildwood. Until then, I'll be in my kitchen cooking or waiting in a parking spot for my curb-side order.

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