What Winter Means for Outdoor Dining During COVID

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Collectively, we're all trying to put ​Game of Thrones​ out of our minds, but in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is still coming. Over the summer, many of our favorite restaurants, bars, and cafes hung on by the skin of their teeth by offering outdoor dining options. We're fast running out of good weather in most of the United States, though, and our workarounds may not be enough to keep people healthy while keeping businesses alive.

The ​New York Times​ reports that health experts aren't so sure about the semi-enclosed spaces some restaurants are trying to jerry-rig for falling temperatures. Whether it's a heating lamp, a globe encased in plastic, or a shed with blankets available for purchase, restaurant owners are doing their best to hold on to in-person dining options. We don't have a lot of test cases yet, but public health officials worry that we're simply creating microclimates for the coronavirus to circulate in.

This presents a problem we've already been reckoning with: COVID-19 has decimated the restaurant industry in particular. Some estimates in New York suggest that up to half the city's eating establishments could close permanently because of the pandemic, part of a trend that's been horrible for millions of other businesses nationwide. If you're eager to help your favorite spot afloat, ordering delivery directly from the restaurant is still the best way to help. For a problem of this scale, however, we may need legislative policy — and until then, firm and strict guidelines for how to proceed.