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COVID-19 Prevention Tips for a Safe Summer

summer covid

A rise in COVID-19 cases across the region may continue as we head into the warmer months. Families should prepare to take extra precautions ahead of vacations, trips to camp and other summer activities. However, it is up to everyone to determine what level of risk they are comfortable with, and then take the appropriate measures to stay safe.

“I think we need to reflect on what our societal norms are and how we all work as a society and as individuals to protect our own individual health, the health of our family and that of our community,” said Richard Martinello, MD, director of Infection Prevention for Yale New Haven Health.

Dr. Martinello answered some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 safety during the summer.

Will cases continue to rise this summer?

It is difficult to predict if cases will continue to rise over the next few months, but it is reasonable to expect a high rate of community transition over the next several weeks. One of the big concerns we have is prevalence of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants currently circulating in South Africa. If those variants emerge in the U.S., it is possible we could see another spike.

Why does it seem like some vaccinated people are getting COVID-19 now?

There are likely two main reasons why people who are vaccinated are getting COVID-19 for the first time. Even with vaccination, we know immunity wanes over time so some people who got their vaccine and booster could be at risk of catching COVID-19 as the months go on.

In addition, COVID-19 evolves as it replicates, meaning that as more people get COVID-19, there is more of a chance for the virus to develop new variants or subvariants. As immunity wanes, subvariants could be causing a rise in infections. With the easing of mask recommendations in many places, more infections were also expected.

However, it is important to remember the available vaccines are incredibly safe and help to prevent severe infection and hospitalization. We know that even with so-called breakthrough infections, staying up to date on your vaccination helps to protect against infection.

Is it safe to fly now that masks are no longer required on planes?

The riskiest parts of air travel are when the plane is loading, when the plane is still on the ground before takeoff, when it lands, and when people begin to disembark. That’s because the air is not filtering and circulating optimally until the plane is flying.

One way to optimize safety during these times is to wear an N95 respirator during boarding and landing. While the plane is in the air, it’s reasonable to continue to wear an N95, or switch to a mask. It is impossible to know if other passengers around you are contagious and masking can help provide a layer of protection.

How can I stay safe at restaurants, concerts, or other summer events?

Vaccination, masking, hand washing, spending time outdoors and social distancing are still the most important things you can do to stay safe. There is no black and white answer for every activity people may want to participate in, and that’s where everyone will need to evaluate the risks and benefits.

For example, someone who lives with another person who is immunocompromised should take additional precautions to lower their risk.

How can parents keep kids safe this summer?

Families should create a plan now. If kids are sick, families will need to have a plan to keep them home and make sure they are not contagious when they return to their activities. Part of that plan should include a way to get kids tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or become exposed.

Families should also weigh the risks of different activities. For example, look at the camp’s approach to keeping kids safe and determine whether it is a level of risk you are comfortable with. Wearing a mask is still useful for kids participating in indoor activities like summer school.

Should we all get a second booster?

Anyone who is eligible, including those 50 and older and those who are immunocompromised, should get their second booster. It is possible the eligibility expands in the future.

While multiple doses can be seen as an inconvenience, it is important to remember that most of the vaccines we get require multiple doses. Children receiving vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis all require five shots. Measles, chickenpox and even the flu shot for some kids require multiple doses as well. Getting a booster or a second booster is expected and completely normal.

Should we still be wearing masks in public spaces, even as more outdoor options become available?

There is still a role for masks this summer. COVID-19 has forced us to re-think our behaviors from a public health perspective. We have learned how to do activities safely, and not just to protect against COVID-19. Increased mask usage has resulted in a decrease in cold and flu cases over the past two years. When we get sick with any illness, we should isolate ourselves from others. Hand washing and physical distancing will remain important infection prevention measures as well, long into the future.