'There’s no such thing as safe': How to lessen the risk of summer activities amid COVID-19
Masks and social distancing still necessary, says Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers. USA TODAY
Mary Grace Sponn loves picnics. For years, Sponn, a Stonington, Connecticut shop owner, has kept everything she needed for outdoor eating – folding chairs and a table, coolers, baskets, utensils and even salt and pepper shakers – at 真人百家家乐官网网站home, ready to be used at parks and open areas.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit, bringing with it social distancing and other restrictions. Her picnic gear soon turned into a tool kit for maintaining social connections and safety.
At her twice-weekly outdoor dinner parties, Sponn takes BYO to a new level as husband Bill's health puts him at high risk. Along with her tactical outdoor dining kit, she puts food she's sharing with the group into separate containers.
"Once somebody touches something, I’m done," Sponn said. "Not everyone is as cautious as I am."
As the first day of summer arrives Saturday amid a global pandemic, it raises the question of what the season – typically packed with social gatherings, barbecues and pool parties – will look like. And how can hosts and guests stay safe?
Kelly Cornett, a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hopes Americans know that the virus that has claimed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. is still here.
"This unprecedented pandemic has not ended," she says. "So, we live with that. And there’s still no such thing as a zero risk activity right now."
But that doesn't mean that celebrations have to fade into the darkness like a firework, says Patrice A. Harris, immediate past president of the American Medical Association.
"There’s no such thing as safe, but we certainly want to be out, and we certainly want to get together with friends and family members," Harris says. "So what you can do is think about how to make that safer."
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Before you go out, evaluate your risk
Whether it's safe to socialize at all depends on the level of COVID-19's spread in the community and the amount of risk it poses to those who socialize and the people they are around.
Before you go out, review updates from the local health department and understand what local orders are in place (Does the locality require masks in public? Is the pool even open yet?).
States have also set limits for the number of people with which it is safe to socialize outside the household. The people at highest risk from COVID-19 are over the age of 65 and have underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions.
As states are opening up, here's how to assess whether restaurant or other public spaces are taking the proper COVID-19 safety measures. USA TODAY
Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins University's Center for Health Security, agrees the "burden of disease" and health risks it presents are key considerations. Asked whether Sponn's level of precaution is needed, Rivers said it depends on how much risk the virus presents to the partygoer and the people he or she lives or spends time with.
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Miller practices what he preaches. Early on in the pandemic, he helped organize a block party with 6-foot circles marked off in the road with chalk so socializers could keep their distance easily.
"It's almost cruel that now, during some of the most stressful times any of us have experienced, we have been asked to distance ourselves," Miller said. "And it makes sense, which means we have to be creative in how we connect.”
Sponn agrees: "Not only do we have to stay safe physically, but we have to stay safe mentally and can't be holed up in our 真人百家家乐官网网站homes."
Distance, masks and others ways you can mitigate risks of COVID-19
When possible, opt for outdoor activities over indoor ones, advises Harris, who also recommends keeping a distance of 6 feet from those outside of your immediately family and always wearing a mask.
Regarding summer, "that might mean going camping with family, or to hang out with a small group in a friend’s backyard verses a crowded indoor event," Cornett says.
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Basics of safe socializing this summer
Cornett, Harris and health officials recommend:
- Check to see whether the activity you're planning to do is open before you leave the house. Local ities can decide to open or close parks, natural bodies of water, beaches and swimming areas with little advance notice as the COVID-19 situation in the area changes.
- Always try to keep 6 feet between you and people outside your household, whether inside or outside.
- Wear a face mask whenever possible.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wipes for public restrooms.
- Shorter gatherings are less risky for spreading the virus than longer ones.
- Keep the guest list small.
- Do not share utensils, plates or cups at barbecues or gatherings with food.
- Do not greet people with hugs, handshakes or elbow bumps.
- Always stay 真人百家家乐官网网站home if you are feeling sick or have been exposed to COVID-19.