What’s your favorite summertime activity? Or is that a silly question because you live for summertime activities! It is the most eagerly anticipated time of year. For many, it’s a “time-out” season when people take a break and enjoy activities often not done during the rest of the year. Clearly this is a summer like no other, and gives new meaning to the phrase “time-out”. As coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions lift, summer activities begin. But how do you assess the coronavirus risk of summertime activities? Which activities, if any, are safe?
Considerations For Rating the Coronavirus Risk of Summertime Activities
Keep in mind that your personal risk depends on these factors:
- your age and health
- the prevalence of the virus in your area
- the precautions you take during any of these activities
How Do Experts Rate The Risk Of These Summertime Activities?
Let’s look at the risk factors for 5 popular summertime activities.
1. Spending the day at a popular beach or pool: low risk
I imagine this is the first summer activity we think of and wonder about. Can you stay socially distanced? If so, experts say this could be a pretty safe activity. Obviously the beach is better than a pool in terms of space. Going to pools and beaches during the less busy times of day helps minimize risk
The water itself is not a risk. “The sheer volume of water will dilute out the virus, making the water a highly unlikely source of infection,” says Dr. Andrew Janowski, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
2. A BYOB backyard gathering with one other household: low to medium risk
Friends of mine who live in a different state than I do recently organized a small gathering in their yard. Their friends were delighted.
Small group gatherings in spacious outdoor areas aren’t too risky. Of course it depends on who’s invited.
To lower the risk you can plan to avoid sharing food, drinks or utensils. In other words your BYOB gathering is now a BYO-Everything party. Dr. Andrew Janowski notes that the food itself isn’t the risk. Shared dishes or utensils can be, though.
3. Using a public restroom: low to medium risk
Restrooms have been designed to prevent disease transmission, says Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine. She shares with us that, “There are all sorts of things that you can catch from other people’s poop, and you almost never do, because restrooms are set up with all hard surfaces that can be cleaned.”
There isn’t yet sufficient data to know if there’s risk from toilet flushes aerosolizing the virus. Landon says that other viruses, such as norovirus, can be aerosolized by flushing, but norovirus doesn’t often spread that way as long as bathrooms are cleaned. The CDC says it’s “unclear whether the virus found in feces may be capable of causing COVID-19.”
The main risk comes from small, busy and poorly ventilated bathrooms.
Knowing the risks in public restrooms and how to stay safe is essential. Here’s what you need to know.
Landon advises choosing a bathroom that looks clean and is well-stocked with supplies such as paper towels, soap and toilet paper. Wash your hands after you go, and use hand sanitizer on them if you need to touch any surfaces after that.
4. Staying at a hotel: low to medium risk
If you travel a lot and you’re ready to get back your travel mojo, this risk rating is comforting.
The consensus is that staying at a hotel is relatively low risk. The risk is highest in the common areas of a hotel. No surprise there.
If you don’t already do this, think about bringing disinfecting wipes to wipe down the TV remote control and other common surfaces. If it will make you rest easier, ask about the hotel’s cleaning policies. Many have new COVID-19 policies in place.
5. An outdoor celebration such as a wedding with more than 10 guests: medium to high risk
There’s a reason summertime weddings are so popular; it’s lovely to attend an outdoor wedding. I’ve heard many stories of weddings being canceled this summer. I was to attend my cousin’s now canceled wedding, which was in one of my favorite international destinations.
Sadly, weddings come with a lot of risk right now. Being outdoors does reduce the risk. However, the social distancing, eating, drinking, and talking with others are all risky. Of course, these risk factors vary depending on the size of the wedding.
Our personal risk tolerance depends on a variety of factors. As businesses and public areas begin to reopen, decisions about what’s safe will be up to individuals. It helps to know and assess the coronavirus risk of summertime activities the way the experts do. “We can think of transmission risk with a simple phrase: time, space, people, place,” explains Dr. William Miller, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University.
As summer swings into gear, enjoy creating summertime memories! They might not be the ones you planned, they might not be the ones you prefer most, but given this list and our best current knowledge, there are still tons of ways to have fun!
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