Is It Safe to Go to the Beach After COVID-19 Reopenings?

If your state is easing COVID-19 restrictions, here’s how to stay safe if you do choose to go out.

By Michael Bohl, MD, MPH
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Southern Governors Begin Lifting, Lockdown Restrictions (1:16)

Updated on May 20, 2020 

After months of social distancing and following stay-at-home orders, summer is upon us, which means, the temptation to go back "to normal" is greater than ever. If you live in a state that has been slowly easing restrictions or will allow beaches to open for Memorial Day weekend, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to go to the beach and how you can protect yourself if you decide to go.

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Though the reopening of many states and cities is good news, it definitely doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet. The country as a whole may have passed the peak of COVID-19 cases, certain parts of the country may not have gotten there yet. There is also growing concern about a second wave of infection — especially if we start to relax social distancing measures too soon. Because of this, many measures to mitigate the disease are still in place. 

As a guideline for when individual states can start re-opening, the White House has put together a list of criteria that should be met. These include a downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period. Ultimately, whether you decide to go to the beach or one of the newly reopened nonessential businesses is up to you. But if you do, there are a few tips you should follow to stay as safe as possible.

Avoid public transportation, if you can

One challenge with going to a reopened beach or business is how to actually get there. Using public transportation, such as a train or a bus, may put you in close contact with others. If possible, walk or use your own transportation (bike, car, etc.).

Bring everything you need for the day

If you’re going to the beach or to a business, you should still do your best to avoid interacting with people and unnecessarily touching things. One way to do this is to bring everything with you that you need for the day. If you’re going to be hungry, pack a picnic. If you need to fill up your gas tank, bring disinfecting wipes to clean the nozzle.

Continue to practice social distancing

Even though places are opening up, social distancing guidelines are still in place. Wherever you go, do your best to stay 6 feet away from everybody else. You may have already had some practice with this if you went to a park or to an essential business (like the grocery store) in the past few weeks — so do the same thing you would have done in those places. If you’re at the beach, act like you did in the park. If you’re in a nonessential business, act like you did in the grocery store. Stay away from other people and be careful what you touch (including products, money, and credit card readers).

Continue practicing good hygiene

Practicing good hygiene is always important. To help prevent yourself from getting sick, wash your hands frequently — especially before eating or touching your face. To help prevent others from getting sick, cough and sneeze into your elbow. Many areas are also still requiring or recommending the use of cloth face coverings in certain public settings.

Don’t forget everything else you would normally do to protect yourself

COVID-19 is one thing to watch out for, but all the hazards of everyday life still exist as well. Wear your seatbelt when you’re driving. And if you’re going to the beach, remember to put on sunscreen.

Remember, you are still at risk

COVID-19 is still out there and is still a threat. We may have passed the peak, but thousands more people will still get COVID-19 and thousands more people will still die from it. If you do leave your home, remember it increases your risk. Be aware of your surroundings, and if you do start to feel sick, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider.

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Article written by Michael Bohl, MD, MPH