Benton-Franklin Health District on dining outdoors during pandemic

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Restaurants, breweries, wineries and taverns are once again adapting to COVID-19 restrictions. With dining rooms only open to working employees, establishments have gotten creative by opening up outdoor seating areas.

“Our restaurants have done fantastic things to adapt,” Rick Dawson with the Benton-Franklin Health District said.

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Dawson, the Senior Manager of Surveillance and Investigations Programs said there are specific guidelines these establishments must abide by.

“The intent of outdoor dining, is to decrease the risk from being in an enclosed space so we don’t want to create a space, that mimics indoor dining,” he said.

Outdoor tents can have up to two sides or three, only if there’s adequate ventilation to let fresh air in.

“The risk is increased because you’re breathing the same air over and over again, we wanna make sure that we have adequate ventilation which is really the key,” he said.

If an owner is doing anything structural or electrical, Dawson urges them to check with their city’s codes.

“If you’re doing structural things to make a tent go up, make sure you’re complying with whatever your local building code is talk to those people and the same with lighting,” Dawson explained and if there’s heating in the tent, “heating needs to be safe, so if it’s propane heating they need to have adequate ventilation so they don’t have carbon monoxide risk and things like that.”

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Dawson said we cannot let our guard down against COVID-19, even with a vaccine on the way.

“It is that important that we do as much as we can to protect each other.”

For resources on reopening safely, visit the Department of Health’s website.