(CNN) – Even if we run away from getting coronavirus, we are all sick if we stay home, practice social distancing, and wear masks. Although the numbers and deaths from Covid-19 are moving downward, this is not the time to lower the guard. These are not ordinary days. These days of the novel invite us to make decisions with limited and evolutionary information. The coronavirus is still circulating.
As a physician who has been training for more than 30 years, I find myself facing decisions about safe outdoor recreation with some apprehension. Deciding whether to go to the beach, the pool or the park used to be quite simple – now, not much.
On the one hand, there is too much information, some is in conflict and much is interwoven with political ideology. On the other hand, there is a lack of information – the “novel” in the new coronavirus means that it is new and there is a lot that we do not know. While it remains true as always that there are huge benefits to going out these days, it is also true that there are risks to yourself and others if you do.
The woman was sunbathing on Huntington Beach, California, on April 25, 2020.
APU GOMES / AFP via Getty Images
How do you decide if you and your loved ones can walk, swim or swim? Let’s start with some facts we actually know. We know that the virus can be transmitted asymptomatically, and we know that there are people who have a disproportionately high risk of serious complications.
We scientists and doctors do not yet know if the presence of antibodies is an indicator of immunity, so a positive antibody test does not mean you should pass without risk. We know that the number of viral particles you are exposed to and the duration of exposure are vital factors that determine the risk of transmission.
Also, at least one pre-press study, which was not conducted with an expert review, found that the risk of outdoor exposure is much lower than that of indoor exposure.
Visitors wear face masks at Joshua Tree National Park, California, on May 18, 2020. Wearing masks and keeping them at least six feet apart is still important.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
But I want to be out
Now that almost all conditions have opened up to varying degrees, it is important to remember that the virus is still out there. The risks of infection when a runner or cyclist passes fairly quickly are not terribly high, at least in the case of sneezing or coughing, and are even lower at a distance. Lonely activities carry fewer particles than team sports or pool horses.
If you go alone or only with people from your quarantine bubble, your risk will be minimized. Being close to people outside your bubble means you should wear a mask properly to protect others.
The bladder of quarantine is shortened for a small group of friends with whom you can choose to reunite who have followed the guidelines of social distancing and who you know are healthy. The safety of your bubble, however, is only good as an agreement between members to follow safety precautions outside the bubble.
Take a look at the logistics of your plan. It is worth breaking down the planned activity to basic steps.
How will you get there? Remember, public transportation and air transportation are still high risks. If you’re driving on the freeway or interstate, remember that you may have to stop for a vacation in the bathroom. In the spirit of “better than sorry”, if you travel long distances by car, bring food and water as well as a hygiene kit containing wipes, paper towels, travel soap and cleaning products.
What will I need while they exist? Consider the need for bathroom breaks, food and water, your ability to wash your hands and keep your distance. Bathrooms and locker rooms are full of “high contact” surfaces, and although definitive information is lacking, early evidence shows the persistence of the virus on surfaces. Public bathrooms should be treated as high-risk areas and keep in mind that many may not even be open.
The bathroom sink in the town of Allen, Texas on May 1, 2020, was closed to effect social distance.
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
When you are at your destination, remember the basics of coronavirus.
• Keep a distance of at least six feet.
• Wash and disinfect your hands often – definitely after touching any common area.
• Keep your hands away from your face.
• Wear a mask.
• If you are in a park, walk or walk one file and leave room for others to walk a safe distance.
• Consider going outside of the peak and to less popular locations during business hours.
• If you go to the beach, you still have to wear a mask. And keep your distance.
• If you go to a pool, keep in mind that although there is no evidence of spreading by water treated as recommended, distance, masks, and other common precautions are required for common areas.
Remember the proverb about real estate “location, location, location.” The prevalence of viruses and slopes – whether cases increase or decrease – are important in your area. Also, the availability of tests and hospital beds in your area is also important.
You should consider the regulations and laws in your area, realizing that they may not reflect public health guidelines. If in doubt, make a mistake on the protection side.
Factors beyond your control
Finally, there is an important sign that you understand what people around you will do to protect you as they decide how you will protect yourself, your loved ones, and them. Will they respect your space and wear masks? A final word on outdoor recreation? Of course, go out and be active. It is important for your mental and physical health. But choose wisely, be prepared and be confident.
Claudia Finkelstein is an associate professor of family medicine at Michigan State University.