Cleveland Clinic doctor weighs in on whether outdoor dining 'bubbles' are safe

Restaurants continue to seek new ways to yield to coronavirus-related restrictions and safety measures, but are outdoor tents or "bubbles" a good solution?


Video above: Louisville restaurant moving to igloos for latest COVID-19 dining option

Restaurants continue to seek new ways to yield to coronavirus-related restrictions and safety measures, but outdoor tents or "bubbles" may not be an ideal solution.

Dr. Baruch Fertel of the center for emergency medicine at the Cleveland Clinic says that although tents and bubbles provide extra space to allow for physical distancing, "in terms of ventilation and airflow, eating in these outdoors structures is similar to eating indoors."

Fertel cautions that the same rules for dining inside apply to dining in outdoor bubbles. If you are eating with people you do not live with — inside or outside — your risk of spreading the virus is higher.

The Cleveland Clinic continues to urge that carry-out and delivery are the lowest-risk options for eating restaurant food. Eating indoors represents the highest risk.

Restaurants with indoor dining should avoid using fans, which can cause the virus to spread between tables. Patrons should be aware that only a well-kept, clean HVAC system with plenty of outdoor airflow can properly reduce the risk of potentially spreading the virus, the Cleveland Clinic says.

Fertal says diners considering eating in outdoor tents or bubbles should be sure air is circulating and that cleaning and sanitization efforts are being made between patrons. Otherwise, he says, the outdoor bubbles present similar risks to indoor dining.


The surge in coronavirus cases nationwide has caused some areas of the country to reissue restrictions on restaurants and indoor gatherings.

This week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reissued a statewide mask order requiring all customers to wear masks to protect employees at stores and restaurants. Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have retightened restrictions on indoor dining and, in some cases, are allowing cities to place a curfew on nonessential businesses.

Those restrictions come as the coronavirus surge skyrockets in the U.S. The country has recorded more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 for 10 straight days and has seen a dramatic rise in hospitalizations, with some hospital systems reaching a breaking point.

On Thursday, with its highest number yet at more than 153,000 new infections, the country inched closer to what could soon become a devastating reality — 200,000 new cases per day.

And a projection from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows nearly 2,000 people could be dying of COVID-19 every day by the end of December.