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Health experts say additional outdoor seating in La Crosse still requires precautions

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 5:50 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -

La Crosse is seeing more outdoor seating options on sidewalks and city streets due to the pandemic.

However, health officials say sitting outside can create a false sense of security.

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in La Crosse County, some people have turned to outdoor dining to decrease their risk of catching the virus.

Health experts say while eating outside is better than inside, you can still be at risk.

“The ventilation while it’s a plus is far from an absolute,” said John O’Horo, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist. “When spending a prolonged amount of time outdoors with individuals closer to you than six feet in particular-- first off, I would say avoid that if at all possible, but if it’s not-- these are still cases where you have to wear a mask.”

They say along with keeping distance, you should still practice hand-hygiene while outdoors.

“No matter what, eating outside at a restaurant is still going to increase your risk compared to curbside pickup for getting COVID-19,” said Megan Meller, a Gundersen infection preventionist. “Now, it might not be a great risk, but we also know that distance matters and so if you went out to lunch with a friend and you’re sitting across that table you’re only two feet maybe three feet apart from that person.”

Infectious disease specialists recommend creating a bubble, similar to what we’ve seen sports teams do.

“For most of us, it’s those who live inside our household who we’re not masking around because it’s not practical to mask 24 hours a day and for those individuals being unmasked around them at a restaurant is no additional risk compared to being unmasked around them at home,” O’Horo explained.

O’Horo says your bubble should be small enough to know everyone and only include people you trust are also maintaining precautions.

While some restaurants have added more outdoor seating options, it can also force people to speak louder over the sound of traffic-- something that increases the chance of spreading the virus though the air.

For Meller, she says now is a good time to change back your routine.

“Given the huge surge in cases we’re seeing right now the best way to keep all of us safe is to stay at home, so this would be a good time to do that curbside pickup,” Meller added.

For those looking to enjoy the fall weather, she suggests taking your food to a park where you can maintain distance.

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