The past few months have been challenging. We’ve been practicing social distancing measures to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. And with those actions, we’ve postponed parties and gatherings with family and friends.
The weather is getting nicer and many states and municipalities are loosening stay-at-home orders. You may be wondering if it’s OK to plan a small get-together with family or meet up with friends outdoors.
Health experts are still advising people to avoid gathering with others, even from a safe distance of six feet. But quarantine fatigue is real, and it can make you exhausted, cranky, worried, unmotivated, and unable to sleep.
Before venturing out, each individual needs to rank his or her risk factors. People also need to take into account the prevalence of COVID-19 in their communities. If the need to see others is great, how can you tell if an activity is high-risk or low-risk?
Julie Swann, the head of the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, offers this basic guidance:
- Outdoors is better than indoors
- Small groups are better than large groups
- A shorter period of time is better than a longer period of time
The “Los Angeles Times” asked Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an infectious disease expert at Emory School of Medicine, to evaluate the risk of some common activities people may want to engage in during the coronavirus pandemic.
Two families gathering for a barbecue in the backyard, with families staying six feet apart
Verdict: Tough if children are involved
Dr. Sexton says that cooking burgers are acceptable, especially if the food is prepared by someone practicing good hygiene and the food is well cooked.
The challenge is that while adults can practice social distancing, it’s harder for children to adhere to the plan.
Socially distanced walk, with some drift
Verdict: Relatively low risk
Walks are outside, which is safer than being inside where respiratory droplets can linger. Dr. Sexton recommends both people wear masks to make the situation safer.
Mom’s night out in a backyard; no kids, no spouses; bring-your-own everything; stay six feet apart
The issue is if the moms attending went to similar parties earlier that weekend. You are then exposed to the people who attended the other parties. If one of the other guests was contagious, the virus can spread rapidly.
Evening campfire with chairs six feet apart
Verdict: Fairly low risk
Dr. Sexton feels that if people honestly observe social distancing, this is fairly low risk with a small group of people.
Kids riding bikes together wearing masks
Verdict: Intermediate risk
The issue here is if any of the kids have been playing with other kids. That raises the risk of exposure, and then they bring the risk back to their families.
Dr. Sexton’s recommendations to make this safer: make sure the kids involved have had limited exposure to other children and that they understand that the masks stay on. The kids should also wash their hands when they come home.
Letting someone use your bathroom
Verdict: Safer than you might think when taking precautions
Dr. Sexton advises that people using your bathroom need to wash their hands thoroughly and that you clean your bathroom afterward with household cleaners that kill the coronavirus.
Click here to read more about assessing your risk when planning activities with family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic.
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