Summer is typically a time for family vacations, trips to the beach and outdoor gatherings, but COVID-19 has made us rethink several things—even outdoor activities at parks, playgrounds and public pools. Although flights, cruises and other cross-country trips may be canceled, you may wonder if it’s still safe to do other outdoor activities this summer.
While organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization provide recommendations to protect you and slow the spread, it really comes down to your personal decision.
“Each person needs to assess their own personal risk when deciding whether or not to participate in activities outside their home,” said Brandie Anderson, registered nurse and infection prevention director at Banner - University Medical Center Tucson. “Things to consider are your age, underlying medical conditions, viral spread in that location and what you can do to reduce your own personal risk in that situation.”
With this in mind, here are five questions to ask yourself to help guide your decision.
Is it close to my home?
It’s great to get out and enjoy some fresh air but consider a location that’s closer to home to help reduce the likelihood you’ll need to stop along the way for things like bathroom breaks or to refuel.
Traveling long distances may contribute to the spread of COVID-19. “Most travel requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others … which may expose you to surfaces contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC said.
If you do have to make a pit stop, however, make sure to heed this advice from the CDC:
- Keep distance between you and others (at least 6 feet).
- Wear cloth face coverings
- Wash hands or use hand sanitizer
- If gassing up, use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons before you touch them (if available).
Is it safe for me to go?
While many outdoor activities can offer health benefits, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and others.
Going to the beach, camping, golfing, hiking or to any outdoor gatherings while much of the U.S. (and the world) is experiencing the community spread of COVID-19 can pose a risk to you if you come in close contact with others or share public facilities (i.e., restrooms, tables, chairs).
That said, if you do plan to go to an outdoor space, visiting should be OK as long as you remember to follow state and local government guidance and you continue to practice social distancing and these steps: wear a cloth face covering when around others, wash your hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.
Will I be able to maintain social distancing?
“If you determine that your personal risk allows you to participate in outdoor activities, I would advise choosing activities with limited numbers of people with minimal contact,” Anderson said. “I would avoid close contact activities such as basketball where it’s hard to social distance."
Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to still spread COVID-19, so stay at least 6 feet away from others, do not gather in groups and stay away from crowded places and mass gatherings.
If the location you are going is typically a popular site, consider going on off-peak hours or call ahead to see what protocols they have put in place to ensure social distancing is observed.
While your little ones might be begging you to take them to a popular park or playground, the CDC does not recommend. They are often crowded, and it may be harder for your children to heed social distancing. It also can be challenging to keep surfaces clean and disinfected.
Should I wear a mask?
If you are unsure that social distancing will be able to be maintained, consider going at off-peak hours and bring a mask along with you just in case social distancing is a challenge.
Since COVID-19 can spread very easily and sustainably from person to person, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
While it might seem like an annoyance, wearing a cloth face covering can provide an extra layer to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember about face coverings:
- Make sure you can breathe through your mask
- Wear it whenever you’re out in public
- Make sure it covers your nose AND mouth
- For a reusable cloth mask, wash it after use
- Don’t use on children under 2 years of age
- Don’t use surgical masks and other PPE intended for healthcare professionals
Am I feeling sick?
This should be a no-brainer, but if you aren’t feeling well: stay home. Save that hike or run for another day.
Ultimately, the decision to engage in outdoor activities is a personal one, but remember to follow CDC guidelines to help ensure you and your loved ones are safe during this uncertain time. If you have questions or concerns, contact your health care provider to discuss your personal risk and any additional preventative measures.
For more information regarding COVID-19, visit bannerhealth.com.