As the Weather Warms Up, What Should You Know About Outdoor COVID Safety?
Although the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout still lags behind, accessibility has increased. And now that President Biden has instructed states to make vaccines available to every adult by May, many are wondering whether it’ll be too long before things get back to normal again. However, leading infectious disease expert Dr. Fauci has raised concerns about easing restrictions too quickly — particularly in regard to new coronavirus variants. Considering that the U.S. spends almost three times more on healthcare than any other country in the world, it’s essential that we listen to the experts. So what do we need to know to keep ourselves safe through the warmer months that are on their way?
Recent changes in Texas’s statewide restrictions could have massive implications on the nation’s ability to make headway in the battle against COVID-19, according to many experts. Although the U.S. has certainly made progress over the last few months, Dr. Fauci has pointed out that we aren’t home-free yet. In Europe, Fauci says, residents are now experiencing what will likely be a third wave of COVID-19 — likely due to issues related to vaccine administration and eased health and safety restrictions. It’s true that new infections here are on the decline. But many are worried about what might happen if mask mandates are canceled and capacity limitations are lifted. Although masks are no substitute for social distancing, as they should still be worn in addition to staying at least six feet apart from others, these two combined methods were once among the best defense mechanisms we had against the novel coronavirus. And while widespread vaccination puts us in a slightly better position than countries now facing yet another lockdown, new variants of COVID-19 could derail our progress if the vaccines prove less effective in protecting us against these mutated viruses.
That’s especially true if we choose not to exercise caution on an individual level. In Daytona Beach, Florida, the recent Bike Week event welcomed an expected 300,000 motorcycle enthusiasts (many of them maskless) to the area. Although there were 5,172 motorcycle accidents that took place in 2017, it’s entirely possible that massive motorcycle events like Bike Week and South Dakota’s Sturgis rally could be tied to COVID-19 fatalities. Even though these events take place largely outside, that doesn’t mean that they’re safe. Florida has no statewide mask mandate and those in attendance reported that there was no real attempt to social distance, remarking that “Main Street [in Daytona was]… a crazy party.”
If we want Dr. Fauci’s prediction of more liberal restrictions to come true by July, we need to continue following health and safety protocols — even after we become vaccinated. Arguably, outdoor settings are less dangerous than indoor gatherings, with one study finding that the risk of transmission is 20 times higher indoors than outside. But that doesn’t mean you can throw all caution to the wind. You should try to limit your outdoor activities to ones you can enjoy with the immediate members of your household or to ones that allow you to easily maintain social distancing and mask-wearing. Even while wearing a mask, you should stay away from crowded areas and situations that would require to you be in close proximity to someone outside of your home for any real length of time. Many health experts are recommending double-masking, particularly in crowded public spaces like grocery stores, so it’s not a bad idea to continue this practice when you’re outside — though it might be less comfortable on a scorching hot day.
Ultimately, most agree that outdoor spaces are less risky than indoor ones. And while that doesn’t mean there’s no risk at all, the benefits of spending time outside can be essential to your health. As long as you avoid large-scale events, maintain your distance, continue wearing a mask, and use your best judgment, you can enjoy many seasonal offerings — like bike rides, tennis, swimming, and more — and still stay safe.