This article was contributed to by Dr. Beth Donaldson, Dr. Nathan Thakur, and Dr. Raymond McConville
Summers are typically full of BBQ’s complete with share plates and skewers, happy hours where drink glasses clink in toast, adventurous vacations, and lively, yet crowded events. However, in the wake of COVID-19, our traditional summer activities have shifted from care-free gatherings, to more cautious get-togethers with close friends and family.
While restrictions in many provinces continue to be in place, they are gradually lifting as provinces like BC and Alberta move into phase three of COVID-19 restrictions. Phase three of COVID-19 restrictions allows for businesses, like restaurants and cafés, to open and accept patrons. In phase three, people are also permitted gather in small groups again. With businesses reopening, small group gatherings, and sunny weather, it may appear that things are “going back to normal”. While it may feel like our lives are normalizing, it remains important to take precautions against the transmission of COVID-19. Precautions such as donning facemasks, practicing physical or social distancing, and practicing proper pandemic hygiene are crucial to continue to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
The good news is…if you’re looking to enjoy summer with your family and friends after a stressful year, you certainly can! Read below for some tips on COVID-19 summer safety, so you can safely enjoy your next backyard happy hour without hesitation.
Facemasks: Follow the ACT rule
Walking into the grocery store can be confusing – some people are wearing facemasks, and others aren’t! This makes it confusing to know whether you should don a facemask or not. Dr. Amy Tan of the University of Alberta recommends following the ACT rule. ACT is an acronym for when you should wear your mask:
A – All indoor spaces
C – Crowds
T – Transit
Wearing masks in more crowded, high traffic areas reduces the chance that you will unknowingly transmit the COVID-19 virus to others if you are a carrier. Some people have the potential to be “superspreaders”, which means they have the potential to infect many people without knowing it. When it comes to wearing a mask outdoors when you are exercising, studies have found that you are up to 18 times less likely to transmit particles or droplets outdoors than you are if you are indoors. So, stick to the ACT rule when it comes to masks, and wear them at indoor gatherings, in crowds, and on transit. If you’re running low on masks, try making a homemade one. Additionally, if you’re not sure how to properly wear and care for your mask, refer to this guide for help.
In most provinces, people are able to gather in groups of six. When it comes to where you should gather, physicians recommend convening in outdoor spaces, as rooms with no circulation have the potential for a higher rate of infection. If the weather doesn’t hold up, and you decide to gather indoors, ensure you’ve spaced out your chairs, and leave the windows open to ensure better circulation.
If you’re hosting a backyard BBQ or happy hour, watch the food sharing. It’s important to try to avoid share plates and shared cutlery. Individually packed portions are safest when gathering to eat with friends. If you’re attending a picnic with four friends, trying dividing that Greek salad into four individual tupperware containers, and ensure everyone brings their own fork. Additionally, while it can be fun to be re-united with friends, avoid hugs and handshakes as much as possible; when it comes to toasting with your friends, try not to clink your glasses and air toast instead! If you’re looking to learn more about COVID-19 food safety for social gatherings, refer to food safety tips for your next social gathering.
Going out for your first restaurant meal after months in quarantine is exciting! When heading out to a restaurant, it’s safest to sit in an outdoor seating area, such as a patio, rather than indoors. While COVID-19 has not shown to be transmitted through food, it’s important to stay in highly ventilated areas, and to avoid high touch surfaces in restaurants such as bathrooms, credit card machines, and any shared surfaces. Last but not least, bring hand sanitizer with you and wash your hands before and after eating, and after touching any shared surfaces.
Watch the heat
The warm sun feels great after a long Canadian winter! However, the heat can affect products we use such as hand sanitizer and sunscreen.
Try not to keep your hand sanitizer in a hot car, as the heat doesn’t allow for proper coverage once you apply the sanitizer to your hands. Keeping smaller bottles of hand sanitizer on your person is the safest bet for ensuring your hand sanitizer remains effective. If you’re using anti-bacterial wipes, bring a small amount with you in a baggie so that the whole box doesn’t dry out in the heat.
Sunscreen smells like summer! An important part of our healthy skincare regime, sunscreen can protect our skin from UV rays. Like hand sanitizer, sunscreen can be affected by the heat, and comes with extra precautions because of COVID-19. When applying sunscreen to your face, make sure to wash your hands before applying. After your hands are covered in sunscreen, try to wash it off your hands, but make sure that there is still sunscreen coverage on the backs of your hands. It’s also important to keep sunscreen like hand sanitizer – don’t leave it in the car, as the consistency can change and reduce coverage.
Since being outdoors is safer than being indoors, try to get out and enjoy the great outdoors! There are many outdoor activities that can participate in alongside friends and family. Rule of thumb when recreating outside? No large groups, wash your hands, wear a mask if it makes sense, and follow physical and social distancing.
Summer activity ideas:
Camping is a great option for this summer! Make sure to watch high touch communal surfaces, and be careful about food sharing.
The beach is a great summer destination, just ensure you are properly spaced out from other groups of beach-goers.
Watersports, hiking, running, and riding your bike are all COVID-19 safe summer activities.
While life may appear to be returning to normal, it’s important that we are not complacent when it comes to protecting ourselves and others against the spread of COVID-19. Luckily, you can enjoy your summer, and be safe too. Remember to practice physical distancing, wear a mask if it feels right, stay outside when gathering, and wash your hands! If you have more questions about COVID-19 summer safety, and would like to speak to an experienced family physican, contact us to book an appointment.