COVID-19 Summer Safety

Restrictions surrounding COVID-19 are starting to ease up across the region. After months of self-isolation, people are eager to return to normal life. But Jaimie Meyer, MD, MS, an infectious disease specialist at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale Medicine, warns it’s still important to practice proper precautions to minimize the spread of the virus.

“We are all bored and impatient and frustrated,” Dr. Meyer said. “This virus doesn’t care about any of those things. It can still be transmitted from person to person through droplets. It is still true that the best thing you can do to stay safe, even as restrictions ease, is maintain your distance and cover your face.”

Dr. Meyer answered some commonly asked questions about how we can protect ourselves and others this summer.

Is it safe to go to the beach?

Dr. Meyer said the beach is probably “one of the safest” places to go this summer. That’s because it’s outdoors, and there is plenty of space to maintain proper social distancing, which is at least six feet apart from another person. But you don’t want to go to a beach that’s crowded and many places are putting caps on how many people can be on there at one time.

Is it safe to go to a friend’s house for a barbeque?

The recommendation is still to minimize your exposure to other people. If you’re at a gathering, you still need to be able to maintain social distancing and wear a mask when you are in close contact with others.

Can grandparents see their grandchildren if they’ve been living in separate areas?

Dr. Meyer says this is a hard question many families are struggling with right now. Grandparents often have many of the risk factors for not only acquiring COVID-19, but they’re also more likely to suffer from severe and complicated infections if they do get the virus.

“Everyone has to make their own personal judgement about weighing the risks and benefits of being together and weighing the risks and benefits of continued isolation,” Dr. Meyer said. “If there’s a way to see grandchildren and maintain that social distance and wear masks, that’s probably the safest thing other than staying at home and continued isolation.”

Is it safe for kids to play with friends outside?

Every parent is going to have to make their own choice for their child. It was previously thought that COVID-19 didn’t really impact children. But now, Dr. Meyer said there are concerns about a multi-system inflammatory syndrome that’s popped up among kids. It’s also very hard for parents to keep face masks on their kids, so social distancing is key. If things continue to improve, some day camps may open as the summer progresses, giving kids an opportunity to interact with their peers.

Is it safe to go on vacation?

Dr. Meyer said she recommends avoiding non-essential travel, especially if it’s by plane. The air on flights is re-circulated and it’s hard to maintain social distancing. If you want to get away, a car is probably the safest way to travel for now. But the safest thing to do is still to stay at home.

If you do decide to travel, first understand the rules and regulations of the state you plan to visit. Some places require a 14-day quarantine if you’re coming from out-of-state. If you plan to stay at a hotel, find out what that hotel is doing to keep their guests safe.

“Are they stepping up disinfection practices? Do they have no-contact payment options? Is their staff wearing personal protective equipment? Are they requiring face coverings of their guests when they’re out in the public spaces?” Dr. Meyer said. “You really want to do some research on where it is you’re going and what the practices are there.”

Is it safe to eat out at a restaurant?

Once again, Dr. Meyer said everyone has to make their own risk assessment. There’s a range of options and people have to make choices that are right for them and understand what their own health risks are. The safest thing to do is to stay home and cook your own food. If you want to eat out, the next best thing is to get delivery or takeout. If you engage in outdoor dining, it should be in a place that’s taking all of the extra precautions required by the state. The issue with dining in particular is that it’s impossible to eat while wearing a facial covering. So ideally you should still sit with members of your own household.

Is it safe to get a haircut?

If you decide to get a haircut, make sure it’s not “business as usual” at the salon. All patrons should be wearing a mask. The stylists should be wearing personal protective equipment. See if you can make electronic payments to reduce your interaction with others. Find out what the salon is doing to disinfect high-touch surfaces. Lastly, go at a time that is less crowded, whether that’s first thing in the morning or right after lunch. Customers will need to do their homework before they venture out for a haircut.

Is it safe to start rescheduling regular medical appointments like dental cleanings or physicals?

Dr. Meyer stressed the importance of good preventative care and some things need to be done in person. People should not miss appointments for vaccines, especially for kids. Unfortunately, many people have already gone off schedule. Over time, more offices will be opening up for in-person care, and patients should try and get appointments for important screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies.

How can people protect themselves and others as more businesses start to open?

Dr. Meyer said it’s important to remember that Connecticut has seen a decline in cases because of everyone’s vigilance over the past few months. We have gotten used to social distancing, wearing face masks and disinfecting surfaces. We will need to continue doing all of those things in the coming months.

“My fear is that people will see this as an all or nothing situation or a light switch. This is not that. This is an adjustment, hopefully a slow and very measured and careful adjustment back to some sort of new normal. It really should not look like pre-COVID life,” Dr. Meyer said.

If you find yourself in a space where life looks exactly how it did before COVID-19 hit, “turn around and run.”