Memorial Day signals the unofficial start to summer. After months of staying at home, our thoughts turn to backyard barbecues, beaches and seeing friends. But as we start to venture out, how safe are all these activities and what can we do to mitigate our risks?
Epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Klausner with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health says small outdoor gatherings along with camping, and most contact-less exercise activities are considered low risk for contracting COVID-19. But the odds of infection go up when people get too close.
"If someone is speaking loudly. If someone is singing or yelling, right next to you for, you know, a period of a few minutes," he said. "That's the way transmission can occur."
Another low-risk activity is going to the beach and public pools. Dr. Klausner notes that wide open outdoor spaces and pool water are beneficial against the spread of the virus.
"This virus, fortunately, is easily decontaminated with soap and water and with Clorox or bleach chlorine, bromine, any of these disinfectants easily disinfect the virus," he said.
Medium-risk activities include using a public restroom as long as it's not crowded. Staying in a cleaned hotel is also a medium risk. Experts say beware of common areas like the lobby and bars.
Activities that post a higher risk of transmission include dining in an indoor restaurant and attending church services.
"You're bringing in a whole bunch of different people. It's not just your immediate family or friends or people from the community, or people from the, you know, neighborhood," he said.
What about letting a friend or repair person use your bathroom? Infectious disease experts say it's low risk, but to be safe, disinfect high-touch surfaces such as the doorknobs, toilets and sinks. Also run the fan and leave the door open to increase air flow.
At shopping malls, Klausner says the risk varies. The best advice is to avoid close contact in small stores for 15 minutes or more.
"That's the type of exposure that would be considered medium risk but generally, walking through the malls, eating at the, you know, food courts is not going to be medium risk, it's going to be low risk."
Lastly, haircuts. Klausner says, in general, there is medium risk but it can be minimized by making sure you don't stay longer than you need to. Some salons will be skipping blow drying to help curb that risk. Frequent hand-washing and face coverings are highly advised for this.
As summer approaches, how much of a risk do these activities pose in spreading COVID-19?
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