If you’re wondering what activities are safe for your family to engage in this summer, you’re not alone. It’s good to review the most up-to-date coronavirus information so you can consider the best activities for you and your family, especially if you have children.
“Children are less at risk for severe COVID-19 infection, but they can still become sick or transmit the disease even if they have no symptoms,” says Robert Michael, MD, a pediatrician at Samaritan Lebanon Health Center. “The new recommendations for vaccinated adults have opened up a lot of options but young families will need to be a little more careful.”
“Dr. Bob,” as he’s known to his patients, notes that although children are still vulnerable, it’s important for them to be active and safely engage with their peers, even during this pandemic.
“Finding appropriate activities to do this summer as a family is great for physical and mental health,” he says.
Know How COVID-19 Spreads
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through droplets from an infected person that are exhaled into the air and then inhaled by the recipient. Droplets are most concentrated near the person and lessen the farther away you get.
Wearing a mask provides a barrier that protects you and those around you from respiratory droplets, and six-feet of physical distance helps to ensure that you are outside the space where most droplets fall. Person-to-person transmission is the most common way COVID-19 spreads.
It is possible for the virus to be transmitted on surfaces although it is not common, according to CDC. It’s a good idea to avoid touching your face while you are out in public, avoid touching shared objects that aren’t sanitized between users like door handles or pin pads, and to wash or use hand sanitizer once you get in your car and again when you get home.
Very rarely, COVID-19 can be transmitted between people who aren’t near each other if they are in an enclosed space with poor ventilation. In the cases where this occurred, the exposure time was more than 30 minutes.
What Makes an Activity Safe?
The fatigue of evaluating every situation for whether or not it is safe can be overwhelming.
“Everyone has their own personal comfort level with what kinds of activities feel safe, but essentially you want to evaluate the risk of encountering someone with COVID-19 and the probability their droplets can transfer to you,” says Dr. Bob.
That could take some complicated math, but in general when you’re trying to decide if you can attend an activity safely, ask yourself:
- Can I wear a mask?
- Can I keep a physical distance of six feet or more from others not in my family/group?
- Will there be shared objects?
- If the activity is in an enclosed space with poor ventilation, will it be longer than 30 minutes?
“We will likely see county risk levels change several times this summer, and with it the requirements around what businesses need to do to keep patrons safe,” says Dr. Bob. “Do a little advance planning before you go to understand what the environment will be like and what safety measures will be in place when you arrive.”
Choosing an Activity
If you are interested in an organized activity, check the website before you go. Most places have information online about steps they are taking to limit the spread of COVID-19. Check to see if the facility is:
- Limiting patrons.
- Facilitating physical distancing.
- Encouraging masks when appropriate.
Outdoor activities are likely the safest choice this summer. Research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found that outdoor spaces had a low risk of transmitting the virus due to the “… increased airflow, ventilation and lack of recycled air.” Spaces that had lower ventilation, like indoors, increased the chances that droplets could be inhaled.
Parks, Gardens, Farmers Markets, Hiking, or Going to the Zoo, Beach, Rivers...
Outdoor spaces are where physical distancing and wearing masks are key factors to ensure safe play. Pay attention to those around you, and if a large crowd starts to gather it is likely best to move on. Too many people gathered together increases the risk of encountering someone with COVID-19, and decreases the amount of physical space you can maintain between yourself and others.
Pools, Hot Tubs & Splash Pads
As long as they have the recommended levels of chlorine in the water, these activities are relatively safe. CDC reports the virus can’t live in treated water and transfer to another person. The danger lies in the other people who are around you. It’s not safe for kids to wear a mask while swimming or playing in water, says Dr. Bob, so physical distancing is very important. If you’re lounging pool-side, make sure chairs are disinfected between users and keep a distance of six feet from other groups. Waiting in line for a water slide, a busy changing room and the baby splash pool are potentially tricky places where it can be hard to keep physical distance.
Library, Museum or Science Center
Indoor activities are slightly higher risk, but you can still visit safely. Wear a mask, practice physical distancing, limit the number of communal objects you and your kids touch, and sanitize your hands when you leave.
Talk With Your Kids First
Dr. Bob recommends having a conversation with kids before your outing to quickly go over the safety practices they need to follow. You can also let them know that this outing might be a little different than previous ones they have enjoyed: The slide might be limiting people and they might not get a turn, or the penguin exhibit might be closed.
“You can reinforce the idea that you are going into the outing with an open mind, and can enjoy yourself even if it’s not exactly what you were expecting,” says Dr. Bob. “As a parent sometimes we want to make every experience perfect, but the process of adapting to change and managing disappointment can help build resiliency which is something we can all benefit from right now.”
Don’t let your kids fall behind on their well-child checks, find a health care provider who fits your needs. SeePlay Video how we’re keeping our locations clean and safe whenever you visit a Samaritan facility.