Beach Season and COVID-19

(Contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP )

Summer is in full swing, and for many of us, a beach trip is a family tradition. But how should we proceed in these uncertain times?

1. Is it safe to go to the beach at all?

Currently, the word “safe” must be used as a relative term. We are dealing with a novel Coronavirus and limited testing – so other than staying home 100% of the time and having no contact with outsiders, there isn’t any way to determine if any activity is truly “safe.” Having said that, by taking precautions, any activity can be made “safer” when it comes to the risk of contracting viral infection. You are also probably safer from the virus when outdoors in the sunlight (where it is thought that the virus may die quickly) vs. in a closed environment such as a restaurant or theatre.

2. What are the risks?

The risks of going to the beach include the presence of large crowds which impact your ability to social distance, people shouting or yelling which can theoretically spread more virus particles in the air than vs. normal talking, having to use public restrooms with lots of high-touch surfaces which can harbor the virus, or lying in sand where someone may have sneezed or coughed.

3. How can I prepare, should I decide to go?

• Read up on your local area’s cautions and restrictions before you go. Some counties have strict rules on the number of people who are allowed on the beach, what you can bring, and there could be time restrictions, too.

• Keep your beach visit activity-focused… go for a walk, swim, or a paddle. When you are moving and far from others, your risk of catching the virus is lower. Plus, you’ll get in some exercise which is critical for mood, stress, and sleep, and can help lower inflammation.

• Social distancing remains the mainstay of preparation. Your likelihood of viral infection is dependent on the amount of virus in the air or on surfaces + duration of contact, so this is key. Try to find the least crowded area that you can. Avoid areas where it looks like there are large parties or other gatherings.

• It’s ideal to continue wearing a mask at all times unless in the water.

• Avoid public chairs or benches. Bring your own beach chairs and equipment. Bring plenty of hand sanitizer or wipes in case you need to use a public rest room.

• Avoid setting food and beverages directly in the sand. Bring a folding table with you or a large blanket. And of course, to maximize your metabolic health, be sure to bring healthy low-carb snacks to fuel your body such as small packets of nuts and dried seeds, hard boiled eggs and cut veggies.

• When you get home, wash everything in hot water with detergent and dry in the dryer.