COVID-19: Safety in the Great Outdoors — How to Protect Yourself and Others

COVID-19: Safety in the Great Outdoors — How to Protect Yourself and Others

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Wide open spaces are calling. After spending more time at home for months, it feels like the time is right to get outdoors. And a walk in the neighborhood to get some exercise just won’t do.

But like many things these days, getting outdoors and going places is not that simple.

Home Is Best

COVID-19 cases — and deaths — have been reported in all 50 states, and the situation is ever changing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaving site icon says: “Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.”

If you’ve decided to go outdoors or take a trip, the CDC offers safety tips for summer activities.

Take Steps for Safety

It’s important to follow COVID-19 safety rules, even in outdoor spaces. Just being outdoors doesn’t mean you’re safe from COVID-19 health risks. Some outdoor situations mean that you will be around more people and less able to keep 6 or more feet apart. That’s why being at a neighborhood outdoor pool is different than being in a quiet spot on the beach and being at a small city park is different than at a much larger national park.

Being too close to people still puts you at risk.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread by respiratory droplets from an infected person to others close by. When a person talks, sneezes or coughs, droplets can travel 6 feet or more. If they land on someone’s face or are breathed in, they can cause infection. 

It isn’t known if the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water leaving site icon in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds, the CDC says. As in other cases, it’s being close to other people that could put you at risk. That means staying at least 6 feet away and wearing a cloth face covering when possible.

Tips for the pool:

  • Be aware of local or state regulatory agency recommendations for using pools.
  • Consider going to the pool at a less busy time.
  • Don’t share toys or equipment.
  • Follow the rules and signs showing safety practices such as social distancing, one direction walking and more.

Since the virus is spreading through communities across the U.S., certain parts of camping could pose a risk, the CDC says. That includes close contact with others at shared areas like restrooms, picnic areas at campsites or along the trails.

In those cases, practice social distancing and wear a cloth face covering. Think ahead. If you’re on a narrow walking path or trail, walk single file to keep more distance between your group and others. If you see people ahead, cross to another side or take a different path.

Camping in remote areas may mean fewer people, but also puts you far away from medical help. Take extra care if you are at higher risk for severe illness. leaving site icon

A road trip may seem safer than traveling on a plane filled with lots of other people, but it isn't without risk. leaving site icon The CDC says the basics still apply. Stay home if you’re sick. Consider using a drive-thru to get meals. Skip crowded stores and restaurants. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Wear a cloth face covering in public, especially when you can’t keep 6 feet away from other people.

If you’re traveling far from home, it’s a good idea to check out conditions in the area you’re visiting. The CDC offers links to health and travel information leaving site icon in all states. Keep in mind, things may change while you’re traveling, so keep checking for updates. There might be travel restrictions, stay-at-home rules or other requirements at your destination or along the way. There may even be border closings between states.

Sources: Healthy Swimming, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020; People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness, leaving site icon CDC, 2020; Coronavirus in the United States—Considerations for Travelers, leaving site icon CDC, 2020; State & Territorial Health Department Websites, leaving site icon CDC, 2020