NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 13: A waiter walks at a tented restaurant on a sidewalk in Midtown as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on October 13, 2020 in New York City. Restaurants across New York City were allowed to resume indoor dining, at 25% seating capacity, on September 30 after a six-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic continues to burden restaurants and bars as businesses struggle to thrive with evolving government restrictions and social distancing plans which impact keeping businesses open yet challenge profitability. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Data shows that the coronavirus is less-likely to spread in outdoor spaces, due to the ventilation. As a result restaurants were eventually able to open with outdoor dining, but as temperatures have started dropping in many areas of the country lots of restaurants have moved their outdoor dining experiences into tents, or other, more substantial structures than they utilized during the summer months. Dr. Alex Huffman is an aerosol scientist at the University of Denver, and says that when outdoor dining is a viable option (meaning when case numbers are down, so not right now in most of the country), it’s important to consider which kinds of dining setups most effectively minimize risk. The issue when dining out is people are talking and when we do so we exhale tiny droplets that have the potential to infect other people if we happen to have COVID-19. So, the closer we sit to others, and the worse the ventilation in a closed space, the more likely we are to breathe in the droplets of others. Huffman says when it comes to outdoor dining, “[If] you have umbrellas and a heater, I would feel much more comfortable with that.” He adds that with one or two walls there’s a possibility of a crosswind, but three walls make things too risky for his liking, and he notes that fans are not a perfect solution, as they could end up blowing infected air past some patrons. The take-home message: dining in a structure with three or four walls (even tent walls) could be just as risky as dining indoors at a restaurant.