The Fourth of July is going to look a little different this year.
But if you do have plans that you’re not ready to cancel yet, it may be worth doing a risk assessment. Here’s a list of popular Fourth of July activities and safety factors to consider for each one.
Visiting a restaurants or bar
In recent weeks, some dining establishments have reopened as different areas advance to new phases in their post-COVID plans. However, amid surges in new infections, some cities and states, like Florida and Texas, have hit the brakes on reopenings, reinstating mandated closures for restaurants and bars.
If you do decide to attend a bar or restaurant for your July 4th celebration, keep in mind a few important guidelines. Check with the establishment beforehand to make sure that they are enforcing limited capacity and masks for servers, and that outside seating is available.
When you’re there, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from other people, don’t share your food or drinks, and avoid dining with people you don’t live with.
In a Tuesday Senate hearing, Fauci called out bars as a prominent culprit for recent surges in infections across the country, saying that Americans should stop going to bars "right now."
Getting a rental house or Airbnb
Airbnb rentals have often been viewed as a more private and isolated alternative to hotels, but now that social distancing measures are being enforced, people are more likely to book a vacation rental over a hotel room.
If you do plan on getting a rental this weekend, check in with the property owners to make sure they are taking protective steps against the virus.
According to Dr. Thomas A. Russo, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the risk of infection lessens over time, so if the property is cleaned and some time passes between guests, the risk of getting infected is low.
The CDC also recommends cleaning high-touch items like phones, TV remotes, door handles, bathroom faucets, and toilet handles.
Swimming at the beach or pool
As some cities and states have announced they have closed beaches around the country, you should first check to see if your beach or pool of choice is open.
If it is open, check what steps they are taking to enforce coronavirus safety protocols, like limiting capacity and instating social distancing rules.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, water play areas, spa, or hot tubs. Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of virology and environmental science at University of Arizona in Tucson, says that if an infected person gets their saliva or mucus in the water, the virus can enter through your eyes, nose or mouth. However, it's highly unlikely as it would need to be a high concentration.
Either way, you should keep your distance from people whether you’re in or out of the water. Additionally, you should still wear a mask when appropriate. The CDC recommends that people wear face coverings “in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Throwing a barbecue
A cookout is a quintessential July 4th activity. But with more attendees comes a higher risk of infection.
Dr. Rashid A. Chotani, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Health Central, said, “there is no one-size-fits-all answer (as) to whether one can host or attend a summer barbecue or any other gathering.”
However, when it comes to food, Chotani suggests avoiding shared dishes like chips, dips and cheese platters. Sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs should be spaced apart from one another so people only touch their own food. Additionally disposable plates, cups and utensils are also recommended.
Experts also advise wearing masks when not eating, as well as disinfecting high-touch areas like bathrooms and door handles.
Taking a flight
While the CDC has indicated that viruses and germs don't actually spread as easily on flights because of the way the air is filtered, there are still risks to consider on planes.
"However, there may be a risk fo getting COVID-19 on crowded flights if there are other travelers on board with COVID-19," the agency said. Much of the risk comes from the close proximity to others on a plane.
"There's no space on a plane where you have six feet around you between you and another person," said Anthony Santella, associate professor of public health at Hofstra University. "There's no way to escape and maintain physical distancing on a plane."
Watching public fireworks
CNN reports that fireworks may be riskier than usual this year.
The outlet advises staying home and lighting them if you live in an area where it is legally permitted.
If you do see them in a public space like a park, maintain social distance and wear a mask when you are near others. Avoid sites that are too crowded, and avoid touching any shared surfaces (or wash your hands if you do).