Are restaurant igloos, greenhouses and tents safer than dining indoors? Doctor weighs in

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Thursday, October 29, 2020
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Chicago infectious disease doctor Dr. Richard Novak weighs in on whether dining in tents, igloos and greenhouses is safer than eating indoors.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Starting Friday in Chicago and many suburbs, customers won't have a choice but to sit outside. To stay in business by seating as many people as they can, one block in Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood has been transformed into an igloo, greenhouse and tent city.

Inside or outside, Kuma's Corner server Nick Miller said he always take precautions to protect himself from customers.

"We just don't go near them if they are not wearing a mask," Miller said. "We ask them to put it on and I tend to stay six feet away from the table as much as I can."

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As for the patrons: is sitting in these enclosed structures actually safe?

"The biggest problem with them is they need to have high airflow and they really are in close spaces," said Dr. Richard Novak, an infectious disease doctor at University of Illinois-Chicago.

With the igloos seating six people and greenhouses seating four, Dr. Novak said as long as there are an openings to provide some ventilation, igloos and greenhouses should be safe. Heaters help, too.

Infectious disease experts it's really important for restaurants to thoroughly clean the structures between customers and let them air out for a few minutes.

Other restaurants are choosing a less costly option by using tents over several tables. Dr. Novak said unless there are openings, tents are not safe.

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"It's really not much different than being inside the restaurant," he said.

Whether it's a tent, igloo or greenhouse, some customers say dining outside in the near future may not be for them.

"I think it's limited time," patron Nick Cozzi said. "I think maybe in a week or two before it gets too cold for this."