With summer fast approaching, people are looking to squeeze in some fun in the sun on the beach, but is it safe?
Many beaches have been shut down to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some Florida beaches in Naples recently began opening up and closed shortly after because people weren’t practicing social distancing. They reopened again with new guidelines in place.
While stay-at-home orders may be in place, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes that going outside to get some fresh air and vitamin D is essential for our health.
If you are planning an outing to the beach this summer, take the necessary steps to protect yourself and others.
Here’s how you can enjoy the sand between your toes while staying safe during the pandemic:
Follow and Respect Rules and Guidelines
Beach rules may differ from state to state and even town to town. Be sure to know guidelines and restrictions ahead of time. Some beaches that have reopened have a laundry list of restrictions including shortened hours in place and mask requirements.
Beaches in Florida are prohibiting sunbathing, chairs, coolers and gatherings of large groups. Parking will also remain shut down in an effort to minimize crowds and encourage only local residents and not out-of-towners to have access.
Be Cautious When Swimming
Experts acknowledge that waterborne transmission of the virus is not impossible but it’s highly unlikely.
Similarly, 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. Public places where people can go into the water should disinfect the water with chlorine and bromine.
However, there’s always the chance that it could happen. Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of virology and environmental science at University of Arizona in Tucson told ConsumerReports that if an infected person gets their saliva or mucus in the water, the virus can enter through your eyes, nose or mouth. It's important to note that despite the possibility, it's highly unlikely as it would need to be a high concentration.
There’s also no evidence as to how long the virus can live in freshwater. Gerba explains coronaviruses that cause the common cold survive up to three days. “We don’t have studies on seawater, but usually viruses survive for less time in salt water,” he says.
Experts also advise proper hand hygiene prior to and after visiting the beach.
Practice Social Distancing
Just because you’re at the beach, doesn’t mean social distancing goes out the window.
Experts warn that being close to an infected person in proximity is more dangerous than being in the water.
It’s important to practice social distancing in the water and on the beach just as you would at the store or at the park.
Wear Masks When Necessary
Currently, the CDC has ruled that people should opt to wear face coverings “in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Thus, if you are heading to a public and potentially crowded beach or park, wearing a mask is advised. If you can practice safe social distancing, you don’t have to wear a mask, but you should have one with you on hand should the situation call for it.
William Schaffner, M.D., professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told ConsumerReports that the wind at the beach might help diffuse virus particles and says much of the infection is transmitted indoors.
Don't Count on Public Facilities
If you frequent the bathroom often, you may want to skip going to the beach or limit your time there because restrooms will not be available.
Facilities and concessions stands will likely remain closed. The surfaces such as doorknobs, toilet handles, faucets, increase are the perfect place for the virus to live and increase a person's odds of picking up the virus and spreading it. Plus, they would increase congestion that would make social distancing impossible.
Safety 101 Is Still Important
Coronavirus safety might cause us to forget basic safety and beach etiquette. Even if there are lifeguards on duty, swim responsible and close to the shore or the “safe-zone.”
Also be sure to protect your skin from the sun by using sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapplying every 2 hours or after swimming. Sunblock should also be worn on your entire face even if you wear a mask as it’s unlikely to protect you from the sun, according to says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
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