Advise Me

Beaches and BBQs: Planning for a Safe, Vaccinated Summer

By now, you’ve probably heard President Biden’s prediction that by July 4th, we should be able to gather in small groups again. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, the simple prospect of a small gathering watching fireworks is enough to make a grown adult reach for a box of tissues and an American flag. After all, as the world gets vaccinated, there is plenty of reason to celebrate. But before you fire up the grill or buy plane tickets to that island retreat, it’s important to review the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local rules to make sure you are decreasing risks for yourself and the communities you’ll be visiting.

1. Restrictions are easing for vaccinated people

“Even for fully-vaccinated families, travelling is not 100% guaranteed to be safe,” said Brandie Beuthin, RN, an infection prevention regional director at Banner Health. “But this summer should be much better than last year for families that have the travel bug.”

If you’ve been vaccinated, the CDC is relaxing some group and travel cautions, even saying that domestic and international travel can be safe and that gathering indoors without a mask may also be allowed. Of course, there are caveats:

  • You, your travel party and the people you are visiting should all be fully vaccinated or not at risk for severe illness.
  • Quarantining may not be necessary, but showing a negative test result before boarding a flight is vital to slowing the spread.
  • Similarly, travelers should be tested 3-5 days after international travel.
  • In public places, or when people around you may not be vaccinated, you should still wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart.

2. Follow local, business and social norms

Being vaccinated helps to keep you safe, but it isn’t permission to ignore mask policies on planes or in businesses. The CDC continues to recommend masks on all public transportation. Even though the currently available vaccines have high efficacy, none of them are 100% effective at preventing you from getting sick, and it is still unknown whether you can contribute to spreading the virus. Before you travel, do your research regarding local regulations and respect the rules that businesses and people set for you.

3. Get creative

When you’re planning your summer travel, think outside of the box. Consider trading big city destinations for beautiful parks or opting for road trips rather than plane or cruise travel. Pack meals to save money and avoid exposure to crowds.

4. Keep barbecues and weddings safe

Did you miss last summer’s neighborhood block party? Gathering with other vaccinated or low-risk families can be done responsibly. With a few adjustments, you can prevent unnecessary spread and risk. Beuthin offered a few key recommendations:

  • Keep your gatherings small. Even for vaccinated and low-risk families, the CDC advises against medium and large gatherings.
  • If you can’t be sure that everyone is vaccinated, keep the festivities outdoors in a backyard or park.
  • Do not attend if you or someone in the group has been showing signs of COVID-19 or has been exposed to it.
  • Avoid indoor venues with poor ventilation.

5. Avoid “wide open” destinations

As cities begin to ease their restrictions, restless quarantiners are rushing to beaches and filling downtown bars. State and cities with lifted mask mandates and limited restrictions can look appealing after a year of isolation, but these destinations will put you at the most risk. When too many people visit during a pandemic, locals often pay the price.

Instead, consider visiting a nearby city with reasonable restrictions where you will find less crowds. You may be required to wear a mask, but you won’t be fighting crowds and adding to a dangerous health situation.

We’re so close…

“These miraculous vaccines are shining a light at the end of our tunnel,” said Beuthin. “Last year’s fears and anxieties have been replaced with optimism and hope. If we can all hang on just a little longer, I think we will see President Biden’s prediction come true.”

Encourage your friends and family to get their vaccinations as soon as they are eligible. The faster we can get our communities vaccinated, the sooner we can leave COVID-19 to our history books.

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The content of this article was accurate as of our publication date of April 13, 2021. For the latest and most up-to-date information and recommendations regarding COVID-19, please visit the CDC website.

COVID-19 Infectious Disease Safety