Hiking, biking, swimming, paddling, and barbecuing are just a few of the many outdoor activities that make summertime so much fun. Going outside is a great way to stay active, and outdoor gatherings are a lower-risk way to spend time with family and friends during COVID-19.
But there are some important things to keep in mind to reduce the risk of catching—or transmitting—the coronavirus while you’re enjoying the outdoors.
Stay at least 6 feet away and wear your mask when are around others
Whether you’re gathering with trusted family and friends for a barbecue or heading out for a hike, physical distancing is still the most important thing you can do to keep yourself and others safe.
Although there is still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19, current evidence shows that most cases have occurred through close contact with an infected person through exposure to their “respiratory droplets.”
Tip: Masks help reduce the spread of respiratory droplets. And maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance helps prevent any droplets that do spread from reaching others nearby.
Stay close to home
When selecting a space for recreation, choose places that are close to home. This makes it less likely that you’ll need to use public restrooms or other facilities. Bring your own food and drinks from home rather than buying these things along the way. The less exposure you have to high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces during your outing, the better.
Avoid crowded spaces
Stay away from busy parks, trails, beaches, bars, or restaurants or any other space that puts you in close proximity to people you don’t live with.
As we learn more about how novel coronavirus spreads, crowded spaces (especially indoors but also congested outdoor spaces) make it much more likely for someone to contract COVID-19. Sometimes, one person can pass it along to many others in what is called a “superspreading event.” As a result, smaller and more spread-out gatherings are safer.
Tip: If you arrive at a space for recreation and the parking lot is full, it’s a good idea to leave and find someplace less crowded. (Check out the VT Dept. of Forests, Parks, and Recreation’s “Outdoor Recreation and Covid-19” for more helpful tips.)
Choose no-contact sporting activities
Opt for distanced activities like biking, tennis, or golf over sports that involve contact or equipment-sharing, like football, volleyball, and basketball. (The United States Tennis Association has tips for safer tennis play during COVID-19.)
Do not share food, drinks, or utensils with anyone else
According to the CDC, novel coronavirus does not seem to be transmitted through food itself. However, it is possible for the virus to be passed if someone touches an infected object—like a communal serving spoon—before touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
If you are hosting or attending a barbecue or other outdoor meal:
- It’s safest to serve each person’s foods on separate, disposable plates with disposable utensils
- Do not pass plates or put out self-serve communal dishes like casseroles, wheels of cheese, bunches of grapes, or bowls of pretzels or dips
- Clean your hands properly and frequently if you are preparing food for others to eat
- Anytime you eat or drink, make sure to wash up properly first
- Stay 6 feet away from others and wear your mask when you aren’t eating or drinking
The New York Times’ “How to Host a Socially Distanced Barbecue” and Today’s “Is it safe to go to a barbecue? Summer party safety in the age of COVID-19” offers more tips for hosting lower-risk outdoor get-togethers.
When to Stay Inside
The health risks of COVID-19 are the same as they were when the pandemic began.
Do not go out in public spaces like beaches, trails, or parks or attend any gatherings with your family or friends if you:
- Are sick at all
- Have been diagnosed with or are being monitored for COVID-19
- Have been recently exposed to COVID-19
- Need to be in self-quarantine (due to recent travel)
Please wait until your health care provider or the Vermont Department of Health advises you that it is safe before going out in public.
If you are a high-risk individual, follow your health care provider’s advice about which types of activities or gatherings, if any, are safest for you.
VT Outdoor Recreation and COVID-19:
Daily Life and Coping with COVID-19 (CDC)
Outdoor Gatherings and Barbecues:
The New York Times’ “How to Host a Socially Distanced Barbecue”
And don’t forget: COVID-19 isn’t the only summer safety concern!
The VT Health Department has a collection of great tips on sun safety, swim safety, and safety around plants and insects: