From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities

The weather's warming up and public spaces are starting to reopen. How do you decide what's safe to do? We have guidance to help you compare and evaluate the risks.

5/23/2020 10:01:00 PM

We asked epidemiologists and public health experts to rate the risk of 14 summer activities. ⚠️ A warning: Your personal risk depends on your age and health, the prevalence of the virus in your area, and the precautions you take during any of these.

The weather's warming up and public spaces are starting to reopen. How do you decide what's safe to do? We have guidance to help you compare and evaluate the risks.

What alters risk:If people are appropriately socially distanced, wear masks and avoid singing, it may reduce the risk, Karan says. Also avoid any shared worship items like hymnals, Janowski adds.Risk goes down if places of worship adapt, Guzman-Cottrill says."My parish began having in-person services last week," she says. The church had advance sign-ups to limit attendance to 25 people. Attendees were required to be healthy, wear face coverings and sit at least six feet apart.

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4. Spending the day at a popular beach or pool: Low riskAs long as you can stay socially distanced, this could be a pretty safe activity, our experts say.The water itself is not a risk."The sheer volume of water will dilute out the virus, making the water a highly unlikely source of infection," says Janowski.

What alters risk?The key question is how close are you to others? "Can you ensure that you can stay six feet [or more] from anyone outside of your designated family?" asksRebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Watch out for crowds at entry points and bathrooms. Maintain social distance both on land and in the water.Landon says her biggest worry about pools and beaches is kids. At pools,"they make friends with everyone," she says."If you want to be able to see grandma for Sunday lunch, because that's what's really important to your family, then you don't want your kids running around with other people's kids."

She says a beach is better than a pool in terms of space. Go early in the morning or late afternoon when crowds are lower, and look for beaches that mark off spots for people to set up their areas.5. An outdoor celebration such as a wedding with more than 10 guests: Medium to high risk

Meredith Miotke for NPRMeredith Miotke for NPRFamily-oriented celebrations are usually a summer tradition, but they come with a lot of risk right now. Many weddings have been postponed, and with good reason."Outdoors reduces the risk, but as people are celebrating and drinking, it seems like they may not social distance as readily," says Abraar Karan, the Harvard physician."These types of events end up being large crowds where people are having extended face to face conversations."

The larger the guest list, the greater the potential that one of them is infected, says Kimberly Powers, the UNC epidemiologist.What alters risk?The danger varies greatly depending on the size of the gathering and how closely people gather.If you are considering hosting a celebration, make it a small one, with mostly local guests."Bringing people from other communities," is high risk, says Landon at the University of Chicago."If people have to travel by car, by plane from other places, you're really asking for it."

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And really think twice about inviting your relatives, particularly older family members or those with underlying conditions. People may feel pressure to attend, even though it's hazardous to their health — and even more so if you emphasize that you're going to try to make it safe, says Landon. One of the largest clusters of deaths from the virus in Chicago

after a funeral in which one of the attendees spread it to many of his family members.6. Using a public restroom: Low to medium riskRestrooms have been designed to prevent disease transmission, says Landon:"There are all sorts of things that you can catch from other people's poop, and you almost never do because they're set up with all hard surfaces that can be cleaned."

The risk depends on the number of local COVID-19 cases and how clean the bathroom is, says Janowski at Washington University, noting that a bathroom involves multiple high-touch surfaces.Meredith Miotke for NPRMeredith Miotke for NPRThere isn't yet sufficient data to know if there's risk from toilet flushes aerosolizing the virus. Landon says that other viruses, like norovirus, can be aerosolized by flushing, but norovirus doesn't often spread that way as long as bathrooms are cleaned. The CDC

it's"unclear whether the virus found in feces may be capable of causing COVID-19."What alters risk:Miller says the main risk comes from restrooms that are small, busy, and poorly ventilated — like"those restrooms in a gas station off the highway where the restroom is outside."

Choose a bathroom that looks clean and is well stocked with supplies like paper towels, soap and toilet paper. Avoid bunching up in a line to use the toilet or staying there long, if you're within six feet of others. Wash your hands after you go, and sanitize them if you need to touch any surfaces after that.

7. Letting a friend use your bathroom: Low riskLandon doesn't think it's a big risk:"What happens in the bathroom is going to be sucked out of the bathroom ventilation and you can clean all the hard surfaces really easily."Miller agrees:"You can run the fan, leave the door open after (so air flows), and clean the bathroom later. And if you use the bathroom after they do, just wash your hands."

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What alters risk?It's possible that your friend is infected but asymptomatic, says Janowski."It would be reasonable to decontaminate the bathroom after a friend uses it, including cleaning the high touch surfaces of the door, toilet, and sink."

8. Going to a vacation house with another family: Low riskExperts said that if both families have been quarantining and limiting their exposure to others, this is pretty safe."If one family is very active or parents have higher exposure jobs, then the risk increases," Miller says.

Landon thinks this arrangement could be a good idea, especially if the house is"in the woods where you're not going to have a lot of contact with other people," she says.What alters risk?Landon suggests talking with the other family beforehand, to make sure you share the same expectations for the precautions everyone will take in the two weeks before arrival and while you're there. Ensure that no one has signs of illness — if they do, they need to stay home. Miller recommends cleaning the major surfaces in the house on arrival."And the more that people can reduce exposure in the days leading up to the trip, the better," he adds.

9. Staying at a hotel: Low to medium riskThe consensus is that staying at a hotel is relatively low risk, especially once you're in your room. It's best to limit your time in the common areas such as the lobby, gym, restaurant and the elevator, where the risk of exposure is higher.

What alters risk?Bring disinfecting wipes to wipe down the TV remote and other common surfaces. You might also want to remove the bedspread since it may not be cleaned after every guest, suggests Miller. Ask about the hotel's cleaning policies, as many have new COVID-19 protocols."Beware of the elevators! Use the knuckle of your little or ring finger to press the buttons," says Miller.

Other suggestions: Order room service rather than eating at the restaurant, avoid the exercise room, and wear a face covering in public spaces.10. Getting a haircut: Medium to high riskA haircut involves"close contact and breathing, that is extended for several minutes," Karan notes."This is the primary mode of transmission that we know happens. And cloth masks certainly are not perfect for this."

Meredith Miotke for NPRMeredith Miotke for NPRJanowski says this is one of the highest-risk scenarios on this list, because there's no way to keep six feet from someone cutting your hair."All it takes is [having] one asymptomatic but infected worker and suddenly many customers are at high risk of infection," he says.

What alters risk?Landon believes the risk is not terribly high if both you and your haircutter wear masks, and COVID-19 is not very prevalent in your area. Look for a salon or barbershop that has (and enforces) policies to protect its employees, like wearing protective gear and sanitizing hands, she says:"By protecting their employees, they're protecting you, too."

And make sure that your barber or stylist is all business, says Karan:"Stopping to chat at close distance like this is something we all love doing with our barbers normally. This is not the time for it."11. Going shopping at a mall: Risk varies

How risky this is depends on what kind of mall it is, how crowded it is, and how much time you spend there, our panel agreed."Crowds with high density lead to substantial increase in risk," says Miller."The major mitigating factor is that people don't mingle in a single place for long."

What alters risk?Outdoor malls are preferable to indoor ones. And empty malls are better than crowded ones. Avoid the food court and go with purpose, not leisure, says Landon: "As much as you may like retail therapy, you should browse online before you go. Know what you're going to pick up or try on. Wear your mask. Go in, look at it. Make your decision and get out."

Be alert while you're there to avoid close contact."Maintain your space," says Miller."Try to go at off peak hours." Bring hand sanitizer, says Guzman-Cottrill, and use it frequently, especially if you touch any shared surfaces like handrails or elevator buttons.

12. Going to a nightclub: High riskThere is consensus among the experts that going to a club is a very high-risk activity. Crowds, ultra-close contact, singing, sweating, and inhibition-loosening alcohol are a potent cocktail of risk factors. When drinking, people become less compliant with rules, Miller says, and they may breathe heavier from the dancing —"which means more virus is being shed," he says. If there's an infected person in the mix, the virus can spread easily.

"This is a very high risk situation for an outbreak, as we saw in South Korea just recently," says Abraar Karan, referring totied to several nightclubs and bars."Don't go to bars or clubs right now."What alters risk?Nothing makes this a good idea right now. If you want to dance, have a dance party at home with the people in your intimate circle. If it's a small outdoor gathering, dancing under the stars — six feet apart — would be much less risky, too.

13. Going camping: Low risk"As far as summer activities go, this is least risky from a virus perspective," says Rebecca Katz of Georgetown. You're outdoors and isolated. Miller agrees. But, he says if you're going with a group, be sure you can trust your fellow campers. Have they been social-distancing and following the guidelines? If not, they could be asymptomatic spreaders of the virus.

What alters risk?Of course, risks can creep in, depending on the particulars."Are you camping in an isolated outdoor location with your family?" Katz asks — this is the lower risk scenario. It's more dangerous if you're at a crowded campground with a shared restroom and communal picnic areas, she says."Sleeping in tents together with others [not in your household] can certainly be a setup for transmission," adds Karan.

Bottom line: The activity itself is low-risk, but the people that you'll be in close contact with during the trip could increase the hazard.14. Exercising outdoors: Low riskUnless you're playing group sports, exercising outdoors is a good way to burn off steam while staying socially distant. Our experts agree that sports such as golf and tennis are safer than contact sports such as basketball and football."I would personally avoid contact sports until we have a better sense of transmission risk here," Karan says.

And running?"If you're not on a crowded path where people are brushing past each other, then I think that's a great form of exercise right now," says Powers.What alters risk?The more people involved in the activity, the higher the risk. It's possible to spread the virus when you're in close proximity to others — even if you're asymptomatic — so it's best to wear a mask if you can't stay socially-distanced.

Read more: NPR »

Good people of America, go forth and live your lives. Now do peaceful protests. scentsnpetals I listened to this entire program and not once did they mention skydiving. Where listing to your propaganda ranks? What about participating in a riot? NPR no friend of religious services Experts? How about rioting?

I check the mail and take out the garbage. That's enough. Found this article very helpful - it is easy to read and understand. Thank You! Most npr listeners would apparently rather cower at home in fear indefinitely. Good - less people I have to deal with outdoors. STFU. As if there weren't ALWAYS risks you could die in doing pretty much anything..

But of course driving somewhere to do any of those activities is riskier. Odds you'll die of COVID-19: about 1:3500. Odds you'll meet your demise by automobile accident: about 1:100. Better outlaw cars. Oh for Pete sake. Take off the fear mask and go live your life. There is no pandemic either a 99% survival rate and a cure.

Have the experts settled on whether masks are good or bad? Maybe they should nail that down first. nazis paywalled all of that Nothing is risk-free right now. Stay safe. RobIMurphy You take risks every morning you get in your car. Every time you get on a plane. Every time you do sport. If there is an increase by 0.03% I'm taking my chances to have a quality of life that isn't a mask wearing, no contact, restricted and controlled sheep thx.

no vaccine. It’s also a big “fuck you” to all the doctors and nurses who are barely keeping up after working weeks and weeks, terrified they or their family members will die like so many of their patients did The cow is out of milk. Круто! 2 morons Shorter NPR: Life is scawy Thanks, cap’n Because there weren't any medical risks prior to the Coronavirus outbreak... Thanks Captain Obvious...🙄

Is it government funding that makes kowtow to the state? MasksOff ArrestBillGates If we want to reopen, we need consistent messaging from WH of safe & effective measures to prevent the spread, starting with the need to wear masks & minimize potential contact in public. Until the general public understands this, we’ll be stuck until a vaccine is produced.

what will we ever do without experts? greatbattingaverage Get stuffed. Never could have come up with this on my own, thanks experts CDC puts the mortality rate for the Chinese.flu at 0.26% Stay scared flaggots А вы с этим согласны? The party who spent the past 3 years telling everyone to be afraid of immigrants, the Deep State, Muslim attacks, MS13, “the caravan” now says providing facts about COVID-19 risks is “fear mongering”. Fucking classic.

Really, experts? Risk of what? It doesn’t really say. I, as a healthy 46 yo, have nothing to worry abt. This is a complete waste of 1s and 0s. I don’t really see much risk in driving my personal vehicle to the forest where I camp miles away from the nearest people. But I’d love to hear it explained in good faith.

You took a risk leaving your house every day before covid and after it . That is life you are not guaranteed tomorrow so go live for the day and embrace every moment of it . For it could be your last day on earth and is living in fear really how you want to spend it ? You guys understand that viruses existed before 2020, right? It's a risk to get in a car, to walk down a street. Experts. Ok. I saw nothing in here that I didn't know when I was 12, but sure.

Thanks ! This is the type of article I'd love to see more of. Comparing the relative risks of various activities seems better than the all or nothing mindset. Fear mongering doesn’t pay NPR: Your new All COVID All Day outlet, bringing you all the doom & gloom, fear mongering stories you're starving for. Programming note: After squeezing COVID for all the mileage we can, we will return to: Dems & the left, helpless, pitiful victims, 24/7.

STOP SCARING PEOPLE, SFAY IN YOUR LANE. CORRUPT NEWS....🧁🎂🥧❤❤ thanks for sharing - super helpful! Just get on with it already. YES use precaution and don’t do stupid things but look at this chart. If you are below 40 get out and live your life. So are you saying two things can be true? Well this changes everything.

“Experts” said the death rate was orders of magnitude higher than it is. Stop scaring people into submission. Anyone who needs experts to tell them this common sense stuff should probably not leave the house ever again. “experts” aka fear mongering liars that are wrong about everything. ill do whatever the fuck i want.

One big warning: Your personal risk depends on your age and health... This is true every day of your life from birth to death. That there is a pandemic doesn’t make it any less real all other times. Just more ignored. mlmiotke these illustrations are brilliant! NPR is Chinese propaganda depends on which 'experts' NPR decides to ask the word science is meaningless in this crisis everybody's guessing at best

Since a lot of them are hurting financially, why not just rob some banks? Ignore those rules as well. They never even go outside, what do they know about the subject? A pool is a big step 🤷‍♂️ Hiking, fly fishing, climbing mtns What theory is the prediction of a non-flu season 'Second Wave' - just in time to interfere with Nov voting - based upon? Best fit for the epidemiological picture one in which the virus is dispersed by asymptomatic covert operatives harboring high viral loads?

Hanging out in the back yard; finished planting flowers, mowing and putting out patio furniture. Beyond Burgers and veges on the grill, birds singing and eating...a very safe, enjoyable evening. Experts 😂😂😂 Yeah I think we’re done with the experts and their guessing games. I think we can figure things out ourselves going forward. We can’t be any more wrong than the experts have been thus far.

Ffs...if people don't know by now what is safe and not safe after seeing it every day, all day, everywhere they look for months then I don't think this article can help! Should I wear a face diaper swimming? by Antonio Matragrano - Антонио Матраграно I love the summer, vacation in Hawaii 2 weeks every year. How to survive winter without hawaii. This is not normal. Will survive it by not browsing every year to go to hawaii.

🐑 🐑🐑 Ooooo yeaaa keep pedaling that fear I mean if you get the swimming pool up to a nice boil I just don't see any problems Take drugs Scare everyone!!! Ahhhhhh! This whole thing is a ploy to scare Americans into giving up our rights. And not surprisingly it’s the DEMS using it to secure their agenda.

chadterhune Need more info like this I believe GovRonDeSantis , governor of FL should be required to follow this research instead of putting us Floridians in harms way. He’s been irresponsible in the manner in which he’s promoting behaviors that are unsafe and will cause illness and further death in our state.

This was extremely helpful. Thanks! Great article, very useful. Thanks! It's absolutely impossible to socially distance at a church and mask, forget about John 3:18 God said unto jesus thou shalt not wear masks to prevent illness. its in the bible, true story. selina3sticks What about this? Think of it like the AIDS epidemic of the 80’s. Who has your partner slept with before you. And who did all the other people sleep with and so on and so on and so.....if someone is a risk taker, then I think you have an answer.

Be kind and rewind the experts you are relying on? Right... NPR peddles in fear porn. sunnyshines103 this gives me hope Grocery shopping is curiously absent from the list. Getting a haircut where close contact in breathing space is only medium? This is very dubious 🤔 NPR helps the Democrats sell fear. Why do taxpayers pay for this?

It's essential that people go to church and put money into the collection plate and if you're not willing to risk death to do that you're going to hell The take away from this is people need to social distance, wear masks, and use COMMON SENSE! Interesting... Biden’s campaign house Anyone who thinks it’s ok to dine out when wait staff does not yet have masks adequate to protect THEM is a fucking ghoul

Oh good, I'm glad one of my favorite summer activities is relatively low risk: letting a friend use my bathroom. You ever notice how these “experts” never talk about planes during this whole thing? They are packed. Thus, one can only assume that they are lying or ignorant, thus negating any validity to this article.

This is straightforward. I’m going to copy and save the hair cutting part. When I look in the mirror at the mess on my head, good to remind myself the risk is not worth it. experts ⚠️ A warning: You may not be privy to all the necessary information to consider the personal risks to all the people you encounter during or after participating in any of these activities.

Noteably, church services remain high risk... To hell with it do you! Well done - thanks! Personal risk depends on the intensity of contact & ventilation one has had with someone already infected... w/in 6 ft from an unprotected cough, sneeze, forceful conversation; an infected person that coughs into hands, uses common touch mechanisms, & you're immediately in line.

This artist a must read and really breaks down what is and isn’t safe during the pandemic. Take the 5 minutes to become informed Everything we do is a risk v reward ever get in a car? Airplane? Eat out? Stop fearing a pandemic that 98% of you will survive. Fear the panic that this media complex and power hungry leftists are creating and perpetuating.

RE camping being 'low risk' 'It's more dangerous if you're at a crowded campground with a shared restroom' aren't ALL developed campgrounds crowded to full capacity with shared restrooms in summer? The only way around this is to have your own camper/RV with a toilet/sink eloisetheisen Hide in your safe space, never go out again😂😂😂😂

Great tips👍 And right about now, everyone is going to angry tweet NPR like it is their job.

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