Indoor vs Outdoor Dining: Experts Weigh in on What’s Safer

Indoor vs Outdoor Dining: Experts Weigh in on What’s Safer

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As Southern Arizona heads into a heat wave of a weekend, you’ll probably want to spend less time outside.

However, infectious disease experts say if you are not in your own home you are at risk.

Especially in places like restaurants where masks come off.

“You’re not going to be keeping your mask on when you’re sitting and when you’re dining so your likelihood of exposure is going to be much higher,” said Purnima Madhivanan, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and Assistant Professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“In Arizona, with the rates that we have, it would be really, really irresponsible if we chose to dine indoors right now.”

According to Madhivanan, dining indoors poses a risk because of the air circulation.

“It’s a closed environment, it’s recirculated air, and the virus is still in the air for a while so you’re likelihood of getting a dose of that virus is going to be much higher because you’re staying there for a longer period of time.”

Outside allows for the virus to dissipate quicker, said Madhivanan. Which means the likely chance that you would be breathing in this virus goes down dramatically.

Madhivanan said that when it comes to those passing by your table your risk is rather low, but they should be masked up to make it even safer.

Under Governor Doug Ducey’s new Executive Order that goes into effect June 11th, indoor dining has to be limited to less than 50%.

So for restaurants with outdoor dining, it’s not that big of a problem.

However, with triple digits in the forecast, outside seems like the last place people want to be when it’s really the safest.

“We put a little thing on Facebook and our website you know about great evening for the patio and we got back replies of pictures of it’s 105 out,” said General Manager of Zona 78 Paul Leathers.

Naturally it would mean more people wanting to sit indoors. However, Leathers said with the rising case numbers, he’s having trouble even filling to the less than 50% limit.

“When we’re open for lunch if we have 10 tables in here for the day—that’s it. At night I might have 20 tables. So it just hasn’t been an issue or a problem at all,” said Leathers.

He’s following safety protocols inside, earning a “Ready For You” check mark from the Pima County Health Department, keeping it clean for those sitting down.

But in the end experts say it’s your decisions that will keep you safe.

"A lot of these things are not in our control but there are a few things that are indeed in our control and we can make a different to keep ourselves safe," said Madhivanan.

Another suggestion from experts--if you do chose to dine in, stay away from areas with direct airflow like air conditioning vents or fans. Also, make sure to wear your mask when walking around the restaurant to lower your risk.

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