We're at the height of summer, which, during normal circumstances, should mean BBQs, pool parties, camp, and European vacations. But the COVID-19 pandemic rages on—California, Texas, and Florida are among those states that have been seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases in the past few weeks, an alarming sign that not only are we still just in the first wave of the crisis, but it's not going away anytime soon. As we all try to create some semblance of a summer this year, whether it's buying out a camp for the whole family, or renting a luxury RV for a road trip, many are also left wondering: how safe is it to go to the beach?
Social distancing is key.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a beach outing with the lowest health risk entails staff and visitors maintaining a 6-feet distance from anyone they don't live with. Equipment, toys, supplies, and food also shouldn't be shared with anyone from outside your immediate household.
Along with social distancing, which should be done both on the sand and in the water, beachgoers should wear a mask when maintaining space with others isn't possible, and also when going to any public areas like concession stands or restrooms. Face coverings shouldn't be worn in the water—a wet mask makes it hard to breathe—so social distancing while playing in the ocean is of the utmost importance.
Visitors should also bring their own hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, along with any equipment they'd otherwise have to rent, like toys and chairs. Beach managers, on the other hand, should ensure that equipment and communal spaces (including handles, doorknobs, faucets) are frequently disinfected and that portable sanitizing stations are readily available.
And since beaches are outdoors, where it's harder for the virus to be transmitted, as long as guidelines are followed properly, a beach day is safer than having people over inside your home or spending an extended period of time in an indoor public space, such as a department store.
Check if your beach is even open.
But there's also the question of whether you can even go to the beach. Not only does each state have a different reopening plan, but so does each county within that state. It's best to check what guidelines have been put in place by your state and local governments, and whether beaches at a particular destination are open to the public.
Some beaches might be open, but their parking lots closed. Some might be allowing certain activities, like fishing and surfing, while others aren't. In the Hamptons, for instance, Shelter Island's Sunset Beach is closed, while Southampton has suspended sales of day beach permits for nonresidents. In California, which is on the list of states seeing increasing COVID-19 cases, beach opening decisions are made by local officials and vary by county. (California has more than 1,500 beaches sprawled along its coastline.)
Just remember: as with all activities during the pandemic, the magic phrase is social distancing. The coronavirus gets transmitted by people, not water, so a refreshing midsummer ocean swim is safe to do this season—just as long as you're following C.D.C. guidelines.
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