Summer is upon us and it will be like no other summer we’ve experienced before. We’ve all been cooped up at home and many of us are itching to enjoy the warmer weather and the great outdoors. But we need to remember that we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With stay-at-home orders lifted and parks as well as recreational facilities slowly reopening, many states are experiencing a rise in new cases. Here are some suggestions for staying safe this summer but be sure to consult your state and local public health departments for area-specific guidelines.
General COVID-19 tips for staying healthy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020a):
Parks and Playgrounds
- It’s extremely important to continue social distancing, maintaining at least 6 feet apart from people outside of your household and avoid people who are sick.
- If social distancing cannot be maintained, cloth facial coverings should be worn. Check your local public health departments for specific guidelines. Masks should not be placed on:
- Babies and children younger than 2 years old
- Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
- Individuals who are incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face mask without assistance
- Continue frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) and rub until your hands are dry.
- Maintain respiratory etiquette by covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, immediately throw them in the trash wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces between uses as much as possible.
Cookouts and social gatherings
- The CDC (2020b) encourages individuals to use parks, trails, and open spaces while following general COVID-19 guidelines. Most facilities such as sports fields, skateparks, basketball courts, tennis courts, and picnic areas may be managed locally. Please consult the county, city or state government, apartment complexes and homeowner’s associations for closures.
- Plan to visit parks during off hours when they are less crowded.
- Playgrounds should be avoided unless equipment can be properly cleaned and disinfected regularly and parents are able to monitor children and maintain social distancing.
- Organize smaller gatherings with people who have followed social distancing guidelines.
- Prioritize outside entertaining over inside.
- The larger the gathering and the longer the event lasts increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 (CDC, 2020b).
- Organize a potluck – avoid sharing by bringing your own food, drinks, plates and utensils.
- Bike riding, walking, running and hiking are generally safe activities and great for your mental health.
- Wear a face mask if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t avoid close contact with others.
The CDC (2020c) has outlined guidelines for youth sports programs.
Here are a few highlights.
Water Sports and Activities
- Avoid sports that involve physical contact such as basketball, football, soccer, or wrestling; instead focus on individual skill building.
- Tennis, golf and frisbee are examples of safer options.
- Disinfect equipment between use.
- Avoid games and competitions where social distancing can’t be maintained.
- Limit nonessential visitors and spectators as much as possible.
- Identify small groups and keep them together in cohorts.
- According to the CDC (2020d), there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can spread through water in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds. Proper maintenance and disinfection with chlorine or bromine should subdue the virus.
- Beaches can also be a safe option as long as you can maintain social distancing; go during off peak times when there are fewer people.
- Be cautious when using public restrooms.
- Water safety should remain a priority – never leave young children unattended in the water. Check out these water safety tips from the American Red Cross (2020).
Vacation (NPR, 2020)
- Keep small groups of campers together all day in cohorts; group campers from the same geographic area (i.e. city, town, county, community).
- Ensure campers remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share items.
- Prioritize outdoor activities.
- The CDC (2020e) provides strategies on keeping kids safe at youth summer camp programs.
- If vacationing with another family and sharing a home rental, be sure you have both limited your exposure to others and have taken extra precautions the two weeks prior. Clean all surfaces in the house upon arrival.
- If staying in a hotel, limit time in common areas such as lobby, gym, restaurant and elevators; disinfect TV remote controls and common surfaces.
- Camping is very safe if you are in an isolated location with members of your household; if you go with friends, make sure everyone has maintained social distancing guidelines; avoid high risk areas such as crowded campgrounds with shared restrooms and common picnic areas.
As always, be sure to apply sunscreen at regular intervals when outside, drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration, use insect repellent to prevent bug bites, and wear a helmet when enjoying wheel-based activities. As we alter our routines, this is a great time to explore a unique hobby, learn a different language, discover a new instrument, plant a garden, create art, read a book, build something, or just relax and enjoy a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. Modifying your behavior and making smart choices will help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the months to come.