COVID-19 and summer: What are the risks of favorite seasonal activities
Find out about low-, medium-, and high-risk choices and how to decide which are right for you
By Nuvance Health Infection Control & Prevention Specialists
- This summer, you may be wondering if you will be able to enjoy activities such as swimming, vacation, sporting events, and trips to the amusement park.
- When deciding which activities are safe for you and your loved ones, you should follow public health guidelines and carefully assess each activity’s level of risk as it relates to any health conditions you may have, your comfort level, and the spread of COVID-19 in your area.
- For additional guidance, consider contacting your healthcare clinician to discuss your specific situation.
Summer is officially here, and communities are reopening in the wake of the initial COVID-19 surge. You may be wondering if you will be able to enjoy favorite summer activities such as swimming, vacation, sporting events, and trips to the amusement park.
Activities outside your home will involve some risk of contracting COVID-19, which is why it’s still important to follow public health guidelines. Assessing your risk factors, your comfort level, and the level of risk of exposure in your community can assist you in making decisions about what activities are appropriate for you and your family. You can also consult your healthcare clinician for specific advice about what activities may be safe for you, considering your personal and community risk factors.
Here are a few examples of low-, medium-, and high-risk activities, as well as a few tips to guide your summertime decision-making:
Generally, outdoor activities that allow participants to keep a distance of six feet from non-household members are low risk. These activities include walking/running, hiking, biking, and sports such as tennis.
Similarly, attending a small backyard gathering where all participants maintain social distancing, wear face masks, and bring their own food, beverages, and supplies would be considered low risk.
It’s important to be aware that although some outdoor activities themselves may be low risk, crowded conditions increase risk levels. For example, if you encounter a crowded parking area or trail that makes it difficult to maintain social distancing, the risk of catching COVID-19 becomes higher, and you should take increased precautions such as wearing a face mask.
Swimming is another low-risk activity that could be complicated by crowds. There’s currently no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 is transmitted through water. Still, swimming and spending time at a crowded pool, lake, or beach could make it challenging to follow social distancing and public health recommendations and, therefore, raise the level of risk.
Dining at a restaurant — whether indoors or outdoors — is generally considered to be a medium-risk activity. However, your risk level may vary depending on whether you and others wear a face mask when not eating, hygiene policies at the restaurant, and how close you are to servers and other diners.
Camps and activities for kids have a variable level of risk depending on different factors, including:
- The age of the children
- Whether children are with the same group each day, or whether they are permitted to mix between groups
- How frequently the children share objects and equipment
- The social distancing and hygiene policies of the camp
- Whether the camp is indoors or outdoors
- Whether the children are from the same geographic area
A large backyard cookout with shared food, beverages, and supplies where participants do not social distance or wear a face mask would be considered a high-risk activity.
Current guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise against the use of playgrounds and water playgrounds. The CDC also recommends avoiding organized activities and sports, although finding ways to limit physical contact and the sharing of equipment could decrease the level of risk for specific athletic activities.
CDC guidelines further recommend staying close to home and avoiding travel. Travel may increase your risk of COVID-19 exposure due to the use of public transportation, lodging, rest areas, and other public facilities. If you do choose to travel, you should consider travel restrictions and the risks of catching COVID-19 in the area you plan to visit.
Most communities have temporarily closed venues that promote large gatherings of people in close proximity. However, as communities continue to reopen, residents may have to make their own decisions about whether they should visit larger, more crowded venues. Visiting a crowded amusement park, sporting event, or an indoor museum or movie theater — particularly in an area where there is significant community transmission of COVID-19 — may increase the chances that you could catch COVID-19.
The bottom line
The summer of 2020 will be different than previous summers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have fun. When deciding which activities are safe for you and your family, you should follow public health guidelines and carefully assess each activity’s level of risk as it relates to your health, your comfort level, and the spread of COVID-19 in your area.
It’s important to continue proper hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. If you or a loved one is at high risk for COVID-19 complications, the best way to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 is to avoid contact with people who do not live in your household.
For additional guidance, consider contacting your healthcare clinician to discuss your specific situation. Review your local or state health department or CDC’s websites for the latest updates on what’s open, guidance on group gatherings, and other public health guidelines to help you and your family reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19:
- For information regarding Connecticut, visit CT.gov/coronavirus or call 211.
- For information regarding New York, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov or call 1-888-364-3065.
- For additional information, including travel guidelines, visit the CDC’s website: cdc.gov/coronavirus
Nuvance Health is keeping the communities informed on our website at nuvancehealth.org/coronavirus, and on social media @NuvanceHealth, or search for your hospital’s name.
The observations and information in this article are for educational purposes only, do not constitute medical advice, and do not replace the advice of your healthcare clinician.