By Kinsey Gibb
For The Diamondback
This semester, the dining staff at the University of Maryland took extra precautions to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff at its facilities with the university back at full capacity.
After closing indoor seating for the COVID-19 pandemic, the dining halls implemented takeout only dining, limited visits and fewer meal options. With the halls returned to full capacity, updated safety measures were needed this semester.
Students are required to use hand sanitizers and wear masks upon entry, and plexiglass is now featured in front of serving areas.
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Now that students have returned en masse, ensuring dining staff are healthy has become a critical goal as well.
“We are also encouraging people to stay home if they don’t feel well,” Dining Services spokesperson Bart Hipple said. “Whether it’s COVID-related or not COVID-related, if someone is not well they should not be handling other people’s food.”
In addition to the new safety measures, each dining hall now offers “de-densified” areas, where tables are spaced further apart for students who want to distance themselves from others.
“I did notice recently that the tables seem to be a little more spaced out, and also instead of you getting the food yourself, they have altered it slightly so that they scoop it on for you,” said Alex Hong, a sophomore communications major.
In previous semesters, dining halls offered carryout during the height of the pandemic based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eating indoors requirements. Now, however, some students are upset about not having the option to take food on the go.
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“It’s kind of frustrating that I have to go in there and sit,” sophomore communications major Grace Carlo said. “Sometimes, I just want to grab something and go back to my dorm.”
Carlo has experienced a busier setting at the dining hall during the height of students’ lunch breaks. “Everyone here sits so close together, especially if you come during rush hour,” she said.
Hipple explained that the shipping costs for food have doubled during the current supply chain shortage, and carryout containers would entail a huge increase in expenses. Students can apply for sick leave meals under special circumstances, but the meal options in that case are limited.
As of September, both 251 North and The Diner have outdoor patio seating with covered tents.
Many students feel at ease to be back at the dining halls even amid restrictions.
“I think they are doing a pretty good job, everyone seems to have their masks on when they are serving food and everyone getting food has their masks on,” said Ricky Smith, a junior computer science major.