How to Assess Your COVID Risk this Summer
With summer nearly here, the team at Valley View Dermatology would usually talk to patients about the importance of wearing sunscreen whenever heading outdoors. Unfortunately, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic summer will look and feel slightly different this year than most. Instead of heading out to crowded carnivals, music festivals, and ballparks, we all must reconsider where we choose to spend our time when we do decide to leave the safety of our homes.
The time is coming when we will all need to decide on what activities we can do safely this summer, and which ones we will need to avoid. When making the selection about what’s right for you and your family, keep four important factors in mind: person, place, space, and time.
With social distancing guidelines likely to remain with us until a vaccine or effective treatment for the virus has been developed, the number one factor you should always consider before engaging in an activity is how many people will be in attendance? Most municipalities across the U.S. continue to have limits placed on how large public gathering can become, but as we’ve seen with the recent marches and protests that have taken place, relying on local guidelines to limit your exposure won’t always work.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend staying away from groups larger than 10 people, especially when in doors and within close proximity. When outdoors and in areas where social distancing can be observed, larger crowds may be able to gather safely. Ultimately, deciding on how large a group you want to expose yourself to depends on the amount of risk you want to assume in terms of coming into contact with the virus. To better protect yourself when outside of the home, always wear a face mask and observe social distancing whenever possible.
You can’t think about how many people you might feel comfortable with surrounding you without also considering the place. Obviously, choosing to visit an outdoor space offers far less risk of exposure to the virus when compared to an indoor venue. Heat and humidity actively attack the virus, creating a very harsh environment for the coronavirus to survive in. In fact, researchers have identified very few, if any, instances of people contracting the virus when outdoors.
Of course, not every outdoor venue is equal. Stadiums, concert venues, and festivals that share communal areas like bathrooms and offer food and drink pose a much greater threat of passing on the virus when compared to parks, hiking trails, and beaches. Surprisingly, pools are actually considered a safe summer activity since the chlorine in the water will kill the virus, and the outdoor air and water make it hard for the virus to survive long enough to spread.
As we’ve mentioned before, creating enough space to safely practice social distancing remains important whether inside or out. Do your best to keep 6 feet apart from anyone not in your immediate family or household when outside, but inside is where social distancing can make a real difference.
Because it can be difficult to stay 6 feet apart when in a smaller space like a restaurant or coffee shop, you should really think long and hard about whether it’s worth visiting these types of businesses until a proven treatment or vaccine has been developed.
It only makes sense that the longer you spend outside of your home, the higher your likelihood of infection becomes. Currently, most experts seem to agree that after roughly 15 to 30 minutes, your risk of exposure starts to significantly increase.
The more we understand about the virus, the better health experts become at being able to predict what behaviors increase an individual’s risk for infection. At the moment, health officials believe most people unlikely to contract the virus from walking past an infected individual or when jogging past groups on a crowded trail.
However, our risk becomes significantly higher when we leave the safety of our homes and travel to other enclosed spaces, such as restaurants, cafés, bars, and shopping centers.
Whatever activities you and your family do decide to participate in, make sure to remain diligent about washing your hands, wearing a face covering out in public, and to observe social distancing whenever possible. Our team at Valley View Dermatology hopes that everyone continues to stay safe during these uncertain times, and we will see you soon at one of the Valley View Dermatology offices located throughout Oregon.