(NBC News) At Italia Mia restaurant in New Milford, Connecticut outdoor dining has been a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s a reality to life in New England: Temperatures will soon plunge.  

Outdoor heaters are helping to stretch the season well into fall.

“You can’t survive without them right now,” says Italian Mia owner Rocco Dileo. “The winter is going to be tough.”

An estimated 100,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic. Some will never come back. 

As the White House and Congress negotiate another possible relief bill, Sean Kennedy with the National Restaurant Association says the crisis in his industry is about to get worse. 

“A lot of restaurants have used outdoor dining or expanded outdoor dining is a small lifeline to allow them to keep their doors open. That’s not going to be an option in just a few more weeks and for a lot of restaurants that revenue is absolutely critical to staying keeping their doors open,” he says.   

In cold weather areas, restaurateurs are getting creative, from igloos in Boston to huts in Chicago and even bubbles in New York. 

But with more walls, even outside, comes more risk.

“The minute you start putting walls up, even if they are tent walls, you’re also creating much more enclosed space which will allow the Virus to build up more quickly as well,” explains UCLA professor of epidemiology Dr. Anne Rimoin.

It all has people in the restaurant industry hoping for an end to the pandemic and mild weather until that happens. 

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