With Texas in its second phase for reopening after being hit hard by COVID-19, some may feel uncomfortable or unsure about how to deal with going out again. After nearly two months of quarantine, the urge to get out and enjoy the summertime is something that many of us want to act on. But what’s safe? Below is a list of common summer activities and the amount of risk associated with each, according to nonprofit organizations in Texas and health professionals.
A BYOB backyard gathering with one other household: low to medium risk
Meeting in an outdoor area with lots of space and only with a small group is not too risky in general. However, experts say that safety in this situation depends on who you choose to invite and what their previous behaviors have been. More specifically, if both households have been actively practicing social distancing, this would be considered a low-risk activity. On the other hand, if one or both households have been exposing themselves to the public without safety measures (wearing a mask, washing their hands, or keeping a six-foot distance between them and others), this activity could become a lot riskier.
To lower risk, bring your own food and beverages, and avoid sharing these items along with utensils. In addition, be cautious when it comes to alcohol. Consuming alcohol can affect one’s behavior when it comes to social distancing and increases the odds of them using your restroom, which ups the risk factor of this activity.
Eating indoors at a restaurant: medium to high risk
Indoor dining is still among the riskiest activities you can do right now. The issue is mostly with those who tend to linger in restaurants, as this prolongs exposure even if the spacing between guests is acceptable. Talking is also believed to lead to some release of the virus.
The risk level is also highly dependent on how well the establishment has adapted for the pandemic. Restaurants should reduce and space out seating and offer easy access to handwashing stations. They should also provide single-use condiments to prevent customers touching shared ones, and all self-serve areas (soda fountains, buffet tables, etc.) should be shut down.
Spending the day at a popular beach or pool: low risk
As long as you can truly practice social distancing, this activity could be a pretty safe one according to experts. The water itself poses no risk. This is because the volume of the water will dilute out the virus, making the water a highly unlikely source of infection.
The biggest thing to consider for this activity is how close you are to other people. It is important that you are able to maintain six feet of distance from others on both land and in the water. Furthermore, beware of crowds at entry points and bathrooms. Beaches are typically better environments than pools regarding space, and it is recommended that you go earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid peak times.
An outdoor celebration such as a wedding with more than 10 guests: medium to high risk
Family-oriented celebrations are usually a summer must, but as of now they come with a lot of risk. Hosting your festivities outdoors does reduce the risk to an extent, but as people begin celebrating and drinking, they may not be social distancing as readily. Additionally, the more people that attend your event, the more you risk being exposed to the virus.
Even many nonprofit organizations in Texas are taking things slow when it comes to large gatherings and celebrations. In fact, nonprofits like United Way of Tarrant County have cancelled several of their events, including Wild About Reading, in hopes of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and encouraging social distancing.
The best course of action regarding hosting a big celebration is to keep the guest list short. It would also be wise to only include those who are local, since bringing people from other communities is considered high risk.
One big warning to keep in mind when partaking in any activity is that your personal risk is fully dependent on your age and health, the prevalence of the virus in your area, and the precautions you take. It is also necessary to check any local laws regarding restrictions on certain activities, as some places are continuing to limit some of the ones listed above. There is no such thing as zero-risk outing, so it is essential that you understand that your decision about what is and isn’t safe will be up to you as an individual. If you are uneasy about the state reopening or would like further guidance about available resources during the pandemic, nonprofit organizations in Texas and health experts are here to help. In the meantime, stay safe!