Outdoor dining is allowed all over California, but is it safe as coronavirus cases increase?


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – With the vast majority of California’s population back in the purple tier, outdoor dining is the name of the game for restaurants. But as the weather changes, these businesses are once again trying to adapt to meal safety rules in the COVID-19 era. Diners are also wondering how safe it is to dine out as cases increase almost everywhere.

Here are the rules for outdoor dining in California and the Bay Area, and what you need to know to consider it.

Where are outdoor restaurant meals allowed? Is eating in an indoor restaurant allowed anywhere?

Outdoor dining is permitted at all reopening levels in California, including the more stringent “purple level” status. Indoor meals with limited capacity are allowed from the red level according to the state’s timeline, but counties can still go slower.

As of Thursday in the Bay Area, alfresco dining has been permitted in all nine counties. Indoor meals are only permitted in San Mateo County at 25% capacity.

INTERACTIVE: here is the reopening status of each county in the Bay Area

You will recall, at the start of the pandemic, restaurants were only allowed to do take out – no dining inside or out. In theory, any county could revert to these tighter restrictions on stay-at-home orders, but no Bay Area county seems to be considering it at this time.

What health and safety guidelines are restaurants required to follow for outdoor dining?

The state has a 13-page document on guidelines restaurants must follow to reopen, whether for indoor or outdoor service. They include: Staff should wear masks at all times, diners should wear masks when not eating, tables should be spaced out and cleaned after use.

Are tents and igloos allowed? Is eating in a tent or in an igloo safer than eating inside?

Outdoor tents, igloos, and geodesic domes are all allowed in California – and you’ll likely see more and more of them appear as the weather cools. But when it comes to safety, the key element here is ventilation and air circulation. Local health departments may also offer good restaurants if their outdoor facilities are not up to code.

A tent that is open on two sides and lets in the breeze is safer than a fully closed dome, for example, because virus particles in the air are less likely to linger.

RELATED: Rohnert Park Restaurant Owner Fined $ 1,000 for Dangerous Outdoor Tent Amid COVID-19

“So if someone is infected and they sit outside in one of those tents, when they breathe and speak, they release viruses into the air and just like cigarette smoke , the air can easily flow in any direction because there are no walls, ”Virginia Tech professor Linsey Marr told ABC News. “And once you start adding walls, you potentially block that wind. Once you add four walls, you kind of lose the benefit of being outside.”

Fully enclosed domes and tents keep you safe from others, so in that sense, they might be safer if you only dine with members of your household. However, if someone in the confined space happens to be infected, they are much more likely to pass it on to others.

A sushi restaurant in San Francisco that installed exterior plastic domes on its patio was ordered to take them apart because they lacked ventilation. They have since changed the structures and reinstalled them.

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