With warmer weather on the way and loosening restrictions all over the country, many Americans have begun questioning how safe outdoor activities are this summer. The New York Times spoke to several health experts in an attempt to answer this question. According to these experts, the bottom line is that being around people outside your family unit outdoors is almost always safer than indoors, however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any risk.
All of the experts interviewed by The New York Times agreed that the risk of transmitting or contracting the novel coronavirus is lower when people are outdoors. The main reason for this is that the droplets containing the virus quickly get diluted outdoors. Even a soft breeze helps to scatter the droplets, which makes it less likely that they’ll be inhaled, which is how the virus spreads.
That being said, the experts who spoke to The New York Times stressed that the virus can still be transmitted and contracted outdoors, so it’s important to take precautions. They stated that it’s still important to stay six feet away from anyone who’s not part of your family unit. Wearing a mask is also a good way to lower the risk of transmitting the virus, so people who can wear them without putting their health at risk should.
Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, told The New York Times that some activities are lower risk than others.
“The risk is lower outdoors, but it’s not zero,” she said. “And I think the risk is higher if you have two people who are stationary next to each other for a long time, like on a beach blanket, rather than people who are walking and passing each other.”
Experts also told The New York Times that exercises like running and biking pose less of a risk because of the speed at which people are passing each other. Though, they still suggested that runners and bikers wear masks when possible to limit their risk of transmitting the virus when they pass others.
The experts interviewed by The New York Times also stressed that when people meet up with people outside their family units they are increasing their risk of contracting the virus. They emphasized that taking precautions like staying six feet apart and wearing masks are even more crucial when people are socializing than when they’re exercising.
Experts said that if people do choose to see people outside their family units, it’s crucial to keep gatherings small.
All of the experts interviewed by The New York Times agreed that the biggest risk with outdoor activities this summer is the crowds. Parks, beaches, and pools are high-risk outdoor areas because of the concentration of people, experts said. Even if people manage to stay six feet apart, which can be difficult, the sheer number of people in one place increases the risk of virus transmission.
Though there’s still some risk with outdoor activities, experts told the New York Times that getting outside is important for mental and physical health. And since outdoors is generally safer than indoors, people should be getting outside and enjoying the warm weather and fresh air.
So, what does this all mean for summer fun? The experts interviewed by The New York Times agreed that having sun in the fun this summer is probably safe, but it’s all about the choices people make. Going for a walk, run, or bike ride on a wide path, wearing a mask, and maintaining six feet of distance is the safest choice.
Socializing with friends, six feet apart, wearing masks at a table or on a blanket is a less safe choice, but it is still a relatively low risk compared to socializing indoors. Heading to a park, beach, or pool is the choice that poses the highest risk.