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Where EAST meets the Northwest


Are dining tents a safe way to eat out during the pandemic?

By The Associated Press

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

Are dining tents a safe way to eat out during the pandemic?

Health experts say outdoor dining tents are generally safer than dining inside, but caution that theyíre not all equal.

Many restaurants are erecting individual tents, igloos, and other outdoor structures that let people who are dining together avoid being indoors, where the coronavirus spreads more easily.

Experts say the structures should be well-ventilated. A tent with four walls and a roof, for example, might not have better ventilation than an indoor dining room.

"The more airflow through the structure, the better it is," says Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University.

Igloos and individual tents are a creative solution but shouldnít be shared with people who arenít in your household, says Craig Hedberg, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

"If itís keeping you from being in a common airspace with other people, then thatís a good thing," he says.

Between parties, tents should be cleaned and left open for at least 20 minutes, says Aubree Gordon, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She also suggests servers should be able to leave food on a tray outside to minimize contact with diners.

Tents are helping many restaurants get through lean times. But they may cost extra. In Detroit, Lumen restaurant charges $30 per person to reserve a heated structure with windows for two hours. Lumenís igloos and greenhouses can each seat six people, and the party must spend at least $300.

Once a party leaves, the structure is cleaned, sprayed with sanitizing fog, and aired out for 30 minutes, says Gabby Milton, the restaurantís managing partner.

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