Experts Share Their Thoughts on the Risks of Popular Summer Activities

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Summer is finally almost here—and while many of us are still in quarantine and practicing social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are lots of places beginning to loosen restrictions and open up.

On the one hand, this can seem exciting. Finally—eating at a restaurant again! Going to the beach! Grilling in the backyard with friends!

But once you start thinking about your options, you might start to get nervous. Even though you have the chance to do all of these things now, how safe are they really in terms of becoming contracted by the virus? And if they’re not safe, is there a way to do them in a safe manner?

Below, experts share their thoughts on the risks to some of the most popular summer activities.

  1. Beach or pool

    Risk factor: Low

    “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. Heading to a vacation house

    Risk factor: Low

    Even if you’re heading out with another family that’s been quarantining, your risk of getting the virus on a weekend getaway at a vacation house is pretty low. The only way the risk may increase is “if one family is very active or parents have higher-exposure jobs, then the risk increases,” says Dr. William Miller, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University.

  3. Going camping

    Risk factor: Low

    As long as you’re not on a crowded campground and sleep in separate tents as other people, “as far as summer activities go, this is least risky from a virus perspective,” says Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center.

  4. Backyard BBQ

    Risk factor: Low to medium

    “If you have a gathering with one other household that [has] followed social distancing, this would be a low-risk activity,” says Dr. Judith Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Oregon Health & Science University. Just be sure to avoid sharing food, drinks and utensils with others—and keep an eye on your drink so you’re not accidentally drinking out of someone else’s cup.

  5. Staying at a hotel

    Risk factor: Low to medium

    As long as you avoid common spaces such as the gym or pool area, and take the stairs instead of using an elevator, your risk of being in a hotel room isn’t too high. If you must use the elevator, “Use the knuckle of your little or ring finger to press the buttons,” says Dr. Miller.

  6. Outdoor celebration with more than 10 guests

    Risk factor: Medium to high

    In general, outdoor celebrations are always less risky than indoor. But the guest factor here is what can up your risk. “As people are celebrating and drinking, it seems like they may not social distance as readily,” says Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician and public health researcher at Harvard Medical School. “These types of events end up being large crowds where people are having extended face-to-face conversations.”

  7. Going to a bar

    Risk factor: High

    Unfortunately, drinking can always alter our perceptions of things, meaning we may be less likely to comply with rules—”which means more virus is being shed,” says Dr. Karan. “Don’t go to bars or clubs right now.”

To read more from experts about your risks of popular activities, head to NPR.

What kind of summer activities do you plan on doing this season?