Considering heading to the beach, but worried about the health risks? Here’s what you need to know.
Even as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the U.S., many states are easing restrictions and opening up. Still, a lot of people feel unsure about going shopping, getting their nails done, or being in any crowded indoor area. However, some might feel that doing something outdoors, like going to the beach, is a better option.
The good news is experts say that socially distant outdoor activities are the safest things to do outside your own home. The more fresh air and space we have between each other, the lower the risk of spreading the virus. Studies have also shown the virus appears to die quickly in direct sunlight, which there’s plenty of at the beach.
That being said, there are still some risks. Even a wide-open space like the beach requires certain precautions if you want to significantly lower your risk of catching COVID-19. You’ll have to be more vigilant than you’ve ever been, but it could literally save your life—or someone else’s.
Here’s what to keep in mind during your next trip to the beach.
Social Distancing Is Key
Yes, you’re outdoors, and yes, you’re in the sun, but social distancing is still one of the best ways to keep yourself and others safe. If you get to the beach and it’s packed, with nowhere to sit except very close to another group, then turn around and head home.
Some beaches are making this easier than others. For example, on Long Island, the beaches are limited to half capacity. Everyone also must sit at least 10 feet away from each other.
Even if the beach you go to doesn’t have regulations like these, follow them anyway. Walk farther down the beach to find a less crowded spot. People rarely go much farther than public access points, so even walking an extra five to 10 minutes should buy you a whole lot more open space.
Hang out by the dunes instead of on the water. Go at off times, like early morning or late afternoon, rather than the middle of the day, when it’s bound to be more crowded. Avoid busy weekend days and trek out on a weekday instead.
If you get there early and notice people are gradually edging closer to you, pack up and go. Better to be safe than sorry!
Keep Your Mask Handy
Because it’s been proven they stop the spread of coronavirus, masks are strongly recommended in most states. In others, masks are required if you’re out in public. Regardless of your state’s rules, you should always have a mask with you.
Yes, they can be hot and uncomfortable to wear in the heat at the beach. However, unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing one, you should have yours on while you walk to your seating area. In New York, beachgoers must wear their masks until they get to their blankets, and then they can remove them.
Definitely wear one when you walk to the restroom, go for a stroll on the beach, or head back to your car. You shouldn’t wear one while swimming, for obvious reasons.
What to Do While Swimming
According to the CDC, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through water, so it’s not recommended that you wear a mask while swimming or sitting in a hot tub.
However, it’s still wise to maintain social distancing. Stay at least six feet away from other bathers and stick to your own group.
Pack Wipes and Hand Sanitizer
It’s definitely not a bad idea to throw a pack of wipes or a bottle or two of hand sanitizer in your beach bag. As sinks for handwashing aren’t exactly readily available on the sand, you need another way to kill the virus and keep your hands clean.
These are also important to have with you if you use a public restroom at the beach. While all public areas should be following cleaning protocols to keep things safe, you really can’t rely on that.
Avoid Using Communal Items
If you normally rent beach supplies, like chairs, umbrellas, and towels, now is the time to invest in your own, if possible. You have no way of knowing if these items have been properly cleaned and disinfected before you rent them. Think about who might have used them before you.
If you’ve no choice but to use communal items, be sure to wipe them down with disinfectant before you use them.
Avoid Group Sports
Sure, a game of volleyball or tossing a football around is always fun on the sand. But many beaches, local governments, and experts are banning (or, at least strongly discouraging) group sports at the beach.
You don’t really want to be handling a Frisbee, volleyball, or anything else a bunch of other people have touched—it’s just not smart right now.
It’s also harder to maintain social distancing when playing a group sport. You might find yourself colliding with someone, which is the last thing you want.
Remember Basic Hygiene
You’re outside in the sun, but you still need to keep basic hygiene rules in mind. Wash your hands right before you leave your home and again when you return.
If you use a public restroom, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterward. Even if concession stands are open, consider bringing your own food instead.
Keep Visits Short
A day at the beach most likely means multiple trips to the restroom and interacting with more people. Experts recommend shortening your beach visit to limit your exposure to others.
Still, even a few hours at the beach is better than none at all!
Be Willing to Throw in the Towel
Our final tip will likely be your least favorite if you really love the beach, but it’s probably the most important. Know when to throw in the towel on your beach plans and pack it up.
If you go to a beach that’s normally not crowded, and it’s packed beyond regular capacity, resist the urge to sunk-cost-fallacy talk your way into staying. The same goes if it starts out pretty empty, and then gets really crowded as the day goes on.
Ultimately, it’s not worth the stress of worrying about your health or getting sick. The beach isn’t going anywhere—you can always come back another time.