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Environmental experts weigh in on safety of igloos, tents for outdoor dining amid pandemic

Merwin's Wharf Igloo.jpg
Posted at 11:37 AM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 16:05:19-05

CLEVELAND — Heated igloos and tents are popping up at restaurants across Northeast Ohio giving diners more options amid the coronavirus.

Restaurant owners said they're investing in the structures to utilize outdoor seating for guests who may not feel comfortable sitting inside. But, their safety against COVID-19 is now being questioned by some.

Lindsey Marr is an environmental engineer who studies how viruses circulate. Marr said there's a lot of factors that come into play when addressing the ability of the structures to protect patrons against the virus. One of those factors is who's sitting inside those igloos.

"You'll be isolated from other diners which is good, but you'll be isolated from other diners which can be bad if you're sitting with someone else who happens to be infected, so if you're doing a single tent the best situation is to do it with people in your own household or your own pod," Marr said.

Another factor to consider is how well the tents and igloos are able to ventilate and circulate air. She said if the igloo is designed for one table or one party, time in between parties is important.

"If it's really pretty closed up, I'd probably want to give it 20-30 minutes. But, if they can open the door or maybe it has some kind of windows to it or shake it around then five or 10 minutes should be plenty for the air to kind of move through there," Marr said.

The reality is —the tents or igloos are a better option than sitting inside a close-knit restaurant. However, customers of any restaurant should still practice good habits like, socially distancing from other tables and wearing a mask as much as possible.

RELATED: Local restaurants get creative with heated igloos to expand patio season and stop revenue freeze during colder months