Experts in infectious disease rate a wide range of summer activities as low, medium, or high COVID-19 risk. When your patients ask, you'll be ready.
COVID-19 has kept people around the world at home for 2 months. The yearning to do something "normal" is real--and it's everywhere. But what is safe and how safe? Recently NPR Shots asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to staying in a hotel.
We chose 10 of those activities for this slide show. Your patients may have already started asking about them. Here is what experts advise.
Summer Activity # 1. Backyard BYOB with 1 other family. Low to medium risk for COVID-19. Watch out for alcohol consumption the experts say--it can make guests "sloppy" about social distancing. It also increases the odds that people will want to use your bathroom. "Once you move into the house with others, the risk profile goes up."
Summer Activity 2. Indoor meal at a restaurant. Medium to high risk for COVID-19. A panel member referred to one outbreak in Guangzhou, China, that took place in a restaurant with no windows and poor ventilation where air conditioning seems to have blown droplets among tables and diners.
Summer Activity #3. Attending religious service indoors. Risk for
COVID-19 transmission is high. Panelists pointed to outbreaks linked to churches: In one, 35 out of 92 people who attended a service at a rural Arkansas church developed COVID-19. In another, half of attendees at a choir practice in Washington state became infected after spending time singing with one affected chorister.
Summer Activity #4. Spending the day at beach or pool. The risk for COVID-19 exposure is low. Avoid any grouping of people. Experts noted that kids may be the biggest worry – they make friends, they play; if it’s important to the family to visit Grandma on Sunday, think twice about the beach/pool on Saturday.
Summer Activity # 5. Outdoor celebration (wedding, birthday) with >10 guests. The setting is rated medium to high risk for COVID-19 exposure. The experts cited the example of one of the largest clusters of deaths from the virus which occurred in Chicago after a funeral in which one of the attendees spread it to many of his family members.
Summer Activity # 6. Exercising outdoors. Risk for COVID-19 exposure/transmisison is low. But, the risk depends on the sport, experts say, eg, basketball is "tricky." "You're touching the ball and you're going to be breathing in each other's faces." The suggestion si to play only with people in your household.
Summer Activity #7. Staying at a hotel. The risk is low to medium for exposure to COVID-19. Once in the privacy of your room, the risk remains low but experts say limit time spent in the lobby, gym, restaurant, elevator.
Summer Activity #8. Using a public restroom. COVID-19 risk is low to medium. There isn't yet sufficient data to know if there's risk from toilet flushes aerosolizing the virus. Also, the CDC says it's "unclear whether the virus found in feces may be capable of causing COVID-19."
Summer Activity #9. Letting a friend use your home bathroom. Risk for COVID-19 transmission is low in this setting. You may want to decontaminate the room afterward - but also supply soap, disposable hand towels, and hand sanitizer, prominently displayed.
Summer Activity #10. Getting a haircut. Risk for exposure to /transmission of COVID-19 is medium to high. The experts say it's one of the highest-risk activities on the list, but risk may be mitigated by prevalence of the virus in the area and all parties observing safe practices.
BONUS Summer Activity. Going to a nightclub. The risk of COVID-19 is simply high. The experts agree that nothing makes this activity a good idea right now and refer to an outbreak in South Korea that was tied to several bars and nightclubs.