Posted July 01, 2020 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Officer and Vice President, Network Development and Contracting
Now that summer has arrived, it’s time for some much-needed fun in the sun — especially after weeks of stay-at-home orders to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
From outdoor hikes to swimming to pick-up games at the park, there are many activities to look forward to doing outdoors. Not to mention, these activities are a great way to boost your mental health and keep your family physically active.
But with the gradual reopening of parks, pools and playgrounds, and other summer activities, many of us are left wondering can we safely head outdoors and keep our families active without putting our health and others at risk?
Generally, yes, enjoying the outdoors safely is possible amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as you practice good judgment, follow physical-distancing guidelines and take extra precaution. Infectious disease doctors don’t expect summer temperatures to make the virus disappear. So even on a beautiful summer day, everyone should continue to take all necessary precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
So before lacing up your shoes and stepping foot outside, keep these 5 tips in mind to protect you and your family:
• Choose activities that are solo or minimal contact. Avoid crowds of 10 people or more and keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others to avoid spreading the virus. Maintain minimal contact with those outside of your immediate household.
• Choose low-risk activities. Now is not a good time for extreme sports. Instead, choose activities that have a low risk of injury. To do our part, we must remain healthy and prevent any unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
• Wear face coverings. There are some instances where face coverings may not be necessary outdoors. However, if you’re in a large group or cannot practice physical distancing, it’s a good idea to cover your nose and mouth.
• Stay close for outdoor fun. Travel is not recommended. Even if you’re traveling by car, chances are you will still have to stop for gas, groceries and restrooms. Not only are you at risk for contracting the virus, but you’re also increasing the risk of spreading the virus to a new area.
• Wash your hands frequently. Make a habit of washing your hands before going out and after you get home. Proper hand washing of at least 20 seconds is our number one defense. Also, bring hand sanitizer with you just in case you do have to touch something.
• If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home until you’re well. Symptoms can include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
4 ways to keep families safe and active this summer
SummaCare offers a variety of ways families can safely head outdoors, stay active and improve their mental state of mind as we ride out this pandemic.
Exercising on trails
Walking, running, hiking or biking outdoors is a safe activity, especially if you’re doing it alone or with the immediate members of your household. Rollerblading or skateboarding are safe activities, as well.
Just be sure to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others and avoid crowds by choosing less-traveled trails or going during off times, such as early in the morning.
Keep in mind, even low-risk sports can be high risk. Limit unnecessary risks by ensuring you have the proper equipment and safety gear. If you’re a cyclist, choose a route with minimal motorists to reduce your odds of getting into an accident. If you’re hiking, choose an easier course. The key is limiting your risk for injury.
Visiting local parks
It’s safe to go to local parks that offer enough green space for all types of recreational activities, from playing catch to Frisbee to yoga and meditation. Just be sure to avoid picnic areas, playgrounds, dog parks and public restrooms where groups may form and physical distancing is difficult.
In addition, avoid contact sports, such as basketball and football. Remember, the virus is highly contagious and is spread through person-to-person contact.
Hunting, fishing, canoeing or horseback riding can be safe outdoor activities, too, as long as you’re doing it alone or with your household members and following physical-distancing guidelines. Just be sure to do your research and make sure the location is open for recreation. Many state and local parks shut down locations that attract crowds.
A favorite summer pastime, swimming is a great way to remain active, while enjoying the sunshine. The good news is there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through water in pools, hot tubs or water play areas. In fact, the disinfection of the water using chlorine or bromine should inactivate the virus, according to the CDC.
However, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself while in and out of the water by physical distancing and frequent hand washing. The risk isn’t the water, but instead the people who congregate around it.
Good weather is here to stay so let’s get outdoors and enjoy it as safely and responsibly as possible.