By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Sunshine, warmer temperatures and the gradual reopening of parks, trails and restaurants with sidewalk seating are calling many of us outside after weeks of stay-at-home orders aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19.
Infectious disease experts don’t expect summer temperatures to make the pandemic to go away.
Safely enjoying the outdoors is possible, even in the age of COVID-19, if you take precautions and use common sense.
I encourage everyone to spend more time outside as long as you plan properly. Consider the place you want to go and when it will be the least crowded, and take the best measures you can to stay safe while outdoors, including wearing a face covering when needed and practicing physical distancing.
Do I need to wear a mask or practice social distancing while outdoors?
Regulations around face coverings may vary from place to place, so before going outside to any location, check to see if the venue is open and if it has rules regarding face coverings.
You also may change the time you go to the venue in order to avoid larger crowds.
If you would like to visit the park, consider going during off-peak hours so you’ll encounter fewer people. You should practice social distancing even when you’re outside. It is easier when it’s less crowded.
Is sunscreen on my face necessary if I am wearing a face covering?
You should still apply sunscreen to the area underneath a mask to avoid getting a sunburn. The mask may shift on the skin, and it can be difficult to make sure you have covered areas of your face that are not covered by the mask as it shifts during normal wear.
Do I need to wear a face covering when I’m riding a bike?
Biking should not require wearing a face covering, especially if you are riding on the road or out on a trail in the woods. But if you are in a large group of people biking together where it could be hard to maintain physical distancing, you may want to consider wear one.
The same is true if you are planning on hanging out when you’re finished your ride — you should have a face covering for those times.
Can I attend a cookout?
Before you plan anything, you should find out the current local rules around gatherings by checking the website of your state and local health department. Getting together with a few people is probably OK if you are physically distancing, but a large gathering could pose increased risk of infection and you should wear a face covering.
If you aren’t from the same household, it is a good idea to bring your own food, drink, supplies and utensils to avoid transmitting the virus.
Can I take my child to the playground?
The current CDC guidelines recommend against using playgrounds because it’s hard to maintain social distancing and keep the equipment clean and disinfected. If children or adults touch those surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, they may be exposed to COVID-19.
Can we go in the pool and do water activities?
You can absolutely enjoy a splash in your pool or set up outdoor water tables to play with your kids. There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas.
Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) should inactivate the virus in the water. You should limit the amount of people you have in the pool, and make sure that you continue to physical distance, wash your hands and follow the CDC guidelines.
It is always best to plan and do your research when deciding to venture out this summer! The CDC is a good place to start when making a decision to enjoy a community event or excursion.