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Summer in the Age of COVID-19: What Activities Are Safe?

summertime with COVID-19
John Whyte, MD, MPH - Blogs
By John Whyte, MD, MPHBoard-certified internistJune 01, 2020

The weather is finally sunny and warm – summer is back! But there’s still a pandemic to consider. So, what activities you can do safely this summer, and which ones should you avoid? When making your decisions, consider four factors: person, place, space, and time.

  • Person – How many people will be involved? You still want to try to keep the number of people around you to less than 10 people. If you are thinking about a barbeque, avoid the block party with 25 neighbors, and instead choose a backyard barbecue with a few family members and friends. 
  • Place – Choose outdoor activities over indoor activities. Heat and humidity are not a respiratory virus’ friend, and there are few instances, if any, of people contracting coronavirus outside.  Pools are considered a safe summer activity since chlorine kills coronavirus, and the water and the outdoor air make it difficult for the virus to survive.
  • Space – Even if you’re outside, you still need to practice physical distancing (that’s a much better word than social distancing!). Try to keep 6 feet apart. And if you’re indoors, make sure the area is well-ventilated. The reason why you need to be cautious in an indoor restaurant is that it is hard to keep that distance from others. If you can choose a table outside, that might be a better option.
  • Time – The amount of risk seems to be closely related with how much time you are exposed to the virus. Most experts agree that after about 15-30 minutes of exposure, your risk increases significantly.

This means that you are unlikely to catch the virus simply from walking past an infected person on the boardwalk or jogging past someone on an uncrowded trail. You’re more likely to catch it in a crowded space where you can’t be six feet apart from someone. Blockbuster movies are always a summer tradition, but for now, the drive-in movie theatre might be making a comeback!

Whatever activities you do, avoid touching your face and be diligent about washing your hands. The CDC recently issued a guidance that clarified the transmission of the virus from surfaces is low, but it’s still wise to clean and disinfect surfaces and pay attention to what you’re touching.

Most importantly, wear facial coverings/masks when you are around other people. The main method of transmission is through respiratory droplets, so keeping your nose and mouth covered is one of the best ways you can protect yourself (and others).

You also need to keep in mind your individual risk and the rate of infection in your local community. If your risk is increased because of conditions such diabetes, heart disease, severe asthma, cancer, or age, then you need to be more careful about each activity. The infection rate in your local community also should play a role in your decision. Stay informed about the number of cases in your area and check the latest recommendations from your local public health department.

Summer activities are going to look different this year, so managing expectations is important.  You won’t be able to do everything the same way you did last summer, but you can still have a lot of fun. Focus first on safety, and the fun will follow!

 

 

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About the Author
John Whyte, MD, MPH

John Whyte, MD, MPH, is a board-certified internist and the Chief Medical Officer at WebMD, where he leads efforts to develop and expand strategic partnerships that create meaningful change around important and timely public health issues. As a popular health writer, he has been published extensively both in medical and mainstream publications.

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