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In The New Covid Era, Restaurants And Bars Don't Appear To Know What "Outdoors" Means

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

Does this count as indoors or outdoors? Peter_Fleming/Shutterstock.com

During the Covid-19 pandemic, pretty much every part of the economy, and indeed life, has had to adapt to the new circumstances we find ourselves in. Whether it's social distancing measures enforced by (occasionally not effective) Covid-19 compliance officers or NYC advising the use of gloryholes, everyone is learning to adapt.

As transmission indoors is of particular concern, restaurants and bars have had to make some of the biggest adaptions so far, being places that were designed to cram as many customers into one place as possible. Throughout the summer in the northern hemisphere, bars and restaurants have largely been able to continue a diminished service by moving it outside. Now that it's turning to winter, however, that's not so inviting for customers, and the hospitality industry has been dabbling with outdoor shelters, to keep people and their pizza dry. Nobody likes a wet pizza pie.

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However, some restauranteurs appear to be taking it a bit too far, and don't appear to know what "outdoors" means.

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People have been sharing some of the most extreme examples of "outdoor" spaces that restaurants have cleverly turned into indoor spaces in order to get around the no one indoors rule.

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While clearly there may be some issues of people spreading Covid-19 to other diners, it nonetheless poses an interesting question to philosophers about what the hell counts as outdoors anyway. 

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Some, of course, appear better than others and these enclosed tents are by no means the norm.

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Though you may feel safer by being what you could argue in a long-form essay is "outdoors" (if you must, we'd suggest appealing to the Ship of Theseus paradox before moving onto cogito, ergo sum), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the best way to minimize risk for restaurant diners is to provide well-spaced outdoor seating. It advises that indoor dining, which is placed in the "higher risk" category, should be well-spaced and, crucially, well-ventilated.

"There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with Covid-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away," it says of airborne transmission in its guide for restaurant and bar operators. "These transmissions occurred in indoor spaces with inadequate ventilation. In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19."

The public health institute advises bar and restaurant owners to increase the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, ensure that ventilator systems work properly, and install physical barriers such as sneeze guards where it isn't possible to keep people 1.8 meters (6 feet) apart.

Not like this.

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