June 18, 2020 — 11 a.m. EST
With cities opening back up and the summer season in full swing people are itching to do things. But the big question is, even if you things are opening up, should you be leaving your house? Are there safe Summer 2020 activities you can still do this season?
Even though we are progressing through the re-opening phases, COVID-19 is still very much out there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the past week there have been between 17,000 and 26,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily in the United States. While these numbers are less than the height of the pandemic, during which we saw 30,000 to 45,000 new cases per day, it’s definitely not something to disregard. It’s important to continue to pay attention to the CDC’s guidelines and assess your risk level before going out. But there are certain activities that, if done correctly, are safe for you to enjoy throughout the season while still keeping yourself and your family safe.
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Socially-Distant Picnic or BBQ
Set up a picnic or BBQ in your yard or in an outdoor space near your home. Make sure there is enough room to keep a social distance of 6 feet and not to exceed the maximum size for gatherings set by your state. When thinking about food to pack, avoid dishes that must be shared. Dr. Rashid Chotani, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Health Central, explained to “TODAY” that it is important to avoid sharing dishes like chips and veggie platters. The best way to keep everyone safe is to individually wrap meals or bring your own, but sandwiches spaced apart on a tray so that everyone touches their own would work too. Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center, also recommended using condiment packets and instructing guests to only touch what they take and to keep drinks in cans and bottles so guests can help themselves.
Swim in a Lake, Ocean, or Pool
There is no current evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted in water, so lakes and oceans are fine to swim in. If you want to lounge by the pool, make sure disinfectants (including chlorine and bromine) have been used to clean pool water. While you won’t get sick from the water itself, there is potential for COVID-19 to spread at pools, lakes, and beaches because of the crowds attracted to these places. Make sure to keep proper social distancing at all times and wear face coverings when possible.
Other Low-Risk Activities to Consider
You should still continue proper social distancing protocols and wash your hands, but these activities in the open air and therefore lower risk:
- Take a hike
- Go camping
- Drive-in movies
- Start an outdoor (or virtual) book club
- Try a home improvement project
- Visit a winery, outdoor restaurant, or other local small business outside
Is It Safe to Take a Road Trip?
It is important to remember that there is still a pandemic happening and traveling long distances could lead to unnecessary spread and risk. That being said, if you are planning on driving somewhere this summer, there are some steps to keep yourself safe. First, make sure to pack PPE, like face masks and hand sanitizer. There is no guarantee they’ll be in stock where you’re going and you want to make sure you’ll have enough. Use that PPE whenever you make a stop — wear masks at rest stops and restaurants and thoroughly sanitize your hands after getting gas or supplies. In addition, steer clear of crowded destinations. Aim for outdoor activities and places that keep you distant from others. Lastly, know the pandemic restrictions of where you are going and make sure you are prepared. The CDC recommends checking with state and local authorities of the states you plan to pass through or stay in.
What If I Have to Use a Public Bathroom?
If you have to use the bathroom there are precautions you can take. The chance of getting COVID-19 in a public bathroom is low. But there are risk factors to consider such as ventilation, cleaning procedures, and common touch surfaces. To mitigate your risk in a public restroom touch as little as possible, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and turn off the faucet and open the door with a paper towel. If you’re using the restroom at a friend’s house during a BBQ or other hangout you should take the same precautions. It’s probably safer than a public restroom because of less foot traffic, but you should be mindful of what you touch. Recent research has shown flushing the toilet could spread COVID-19 particles into the air, so close the toilet lid before flushing when possible.
In general, make sure any activity you want to do this summer follows local restrictions for gatherings and CDC recommendations for social distancing. It still stands that you increase your risk of the virus the closer you get to others. Outdoor activities are the safest bet when it comes to spending time with others, as the risk of transmitting the virus is lower. It is important to weigh your personal risk and the risk of those around you when picking summer activities, but there are many options out there to keep you entertained and safe at the same time.