After several months of quarantine, businesses, stores, restaurants, hair salons, and other services are reopening their doors.
Many of us are ready to get out of the house, but are anxious about how safe it is to journey outside.
As you consider what activities you do and do not feel comfortable with, keep in mind that just because stores are open again does not mean that you have to leave the house. Do what makes sense for your situation and do it smart by following the tips below.
General Safety Tips
What we know about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is that it’s primarily spread through droplets in the air. These are little water particles that come from a person talking, yawning, sneezing, and coughing.
While it’s still possible to contract the virus via surfaces, it’s most important to avoid situations where you will be at high risk of coming in contact with these droplets from another person, seemingly healthy or not. But of course, reducing contact with and disinfecting surfaces will still help.
It’s still not very safe to hug each other right now. But spending time with one another can be made into a relatively low-risk activity with the right precautions. Follow the general safety tips below and read on to see how to have safe and fun quality time with grandparent and grandchild alike.
- Wear a mask. This doesn’t just protect you, but others around you. If you happen to have coronavirus and don’t have symptoms yourself, this will prevent you from spreading contaminated droplets into the air when you talk. Encourage those around you to do the same and avoid touching your face.
- Outdoors over indoors. Open spaces with plenty of fresh air help disperse droplets in the air. Indoor ventilation and air conditioning can also spread contaminated droplets that are in the air. Sunlight and other weather factors of the outdoors also fight against the virus itself.
- 6ft social distancing. Meet in open spaces and avoid crowding. The closer you are to someone else, the easier it is for droplets to travel from one person to the next. Six feet doesn’t mean zero risk, however, and the larger the distance that you keep the safer you will be.
- Minimize exposure time. If you do find that you have to go indoors at a public place (most everyone does when they get groceries), minimize the time that you’re in that space. The longer that you’re in a high-risk spaces, the more chances that you have to come in contact with contaminated droplets in the air.
Can I hug my grandchild again?
The safest way to go about visiting between generations of family members is to ensure that the less vulnerable individuals have been following proper social distancing. If your children and grandchildren’s family has been appropriately quarantining for at least two weeks, the risk of getting together drops dramatically.
That being said, there’s other factors that can make for a safer and fun visit together.
- Make sure that everyone has been socially distancing for at least 14 days. This includes any exposure during any travel to a relative’s house.
- Masks are essential. They prevent potentially asymptomatic family members from spreading droplets into the air. Explain to children that the masks are to protect the ones they love and they’ll be a lot more willing to wear them. Check out this article too for more help with children and masks.
- Maintaining six feet distance from everyone, especially the most vulnerable family members, helps make everything safer.
- A quick hug between grandparent and grandchild is relatively safe. As long as both child and adult are wearing masks, keep their faces at a distance, and don’t linger too long, you can hug your grandchild.
Can I get together with friends?
A small get-together is actually one of the safer activities that you can participate in right now, if you do it properly.
While having a giant family reunion in a relative’s house carries a significant risk, having a small backyard gathering is a great option. Social distancing with those you do not live with is still key, but there’s plenty of ways to minimize the risk of spending time with others.
- Meet outdoors. A backyard gathering is a good choice.
- Invite a single other family to the gathering.
- Have everyone bring their own food to the party, especially their own utensils and dishes.
- To reduce time indoors, suggest to everyone that they go to the bathroom before arriving.
- Maintain 6ft distance from others and while sitting to eat.
- While masks aren’t realistic when eating, wear them beforehand and afterwards if you plan on participating in other activities.
Can I eat at a restaurant?
There are a few things that still make eating inside a restaurant a high-risk activity. You are indoors, and ventilation in buildings can spread contaminated droplets through the air. People also tend to spend time hanging out while they eat, increasing their exposure time.
There are still ways to have ready-made, comforting food available to you though.
Many restaurants are currently offering “contactless curbside delivery.” This option lets you drive to the restaurant, have a server drop your food off to you in your car, and off you go. Paying for your food online further reduces contact.
Go contactless curbside delivery if you can.
- Contactless curbside delivery is the lowest risk way to have restaurant food.
- If you do intend to eat at a restaurant, eat where there’s outdoor seating.
- Check that staff are wearing masks and if single-use condiments are available.
- If you’re going to eat out with others, only go with those you live with. You’ll be taking off your mask to eat in close proximity to others, so going with other friends and family carries a higher risk.
Can I get a haircut?
This is another high-risk activity.
Unfortunately, it’s not exactly possible to be 6 feet away from someone cutting your hair. While masks help out, they may have to be moved around in order to get to certain areas. Exposure time to the situation is also somewhat higher.
If you do intend to get a haircut, here’s what to keep in mind.
- Ensure that both you and your hairdresser are wearing masks
- Avoid salons if you are in an area with a large number of coronavirus cases.
- Minimize the normal chit-chat with your hair stylist to reduce the spread of droplets into the air.
Can I go shopping?
The risk of shopping varies greatly depending on the location.
An uncrowded mall has several bonuses: no one is in one location for long and there’s plenty of space to socially distance. But there’s still risk involved here, like with any indoor location.
- Outdoor malls, or strip malls, are safer than indoor malls.
- Have a list when you go, don’t plan to hang out and relax.
- Avoid crowded areas. Keep an eye out for those around you in order to maintain social distancing. Wear your mask as always, but if the normal mall traffic picks up, consider wrapping up your trip early.
- Bring hand sanitizer and use it frequently.
- Since physical cash has touched a lot of hands, pay with a card if you can.
Can I vacation away from home?
Many people travel during the summer, and this year is a great time to visit outdoor areas. Going to the beach and hiking in the woods are both great options. And as long as you maintain social distancing while out and avoid crowded bathrooms and tourist points nearby, these are pretty low-risk activities.
If you want to get a bit further away from home, drive if you can. It’s still best to avoid airplanes and cruises. Hotels are relatively safe, as long as you keep a few things in mind.
- Drive over taking a plane.
- Choose outdoor spots to have fun at instead of spending time indoors.
- At hotels:
- Disinfect areas of your room that you come into frequent contact with. Clean the TV remote, sink handles, refrigerator handles, and consider bringing your own bedspread.
- Avoid common space areas, such as the restaurant, gym, and lobby, and wear a mask when needing to pass through them.
- Order room service over eating at the restaurant or continental breakfast buffet.
- Be careful with the elevator. Have hand sanitizer ready, use gloves, or use the knuckle of a finger to press a button and wash your hands afterwards.
There are many low-risk ways to have fun as the weather warms up as long as you go about it the right way. While the only zero-risk for coronavirus scenario is staying at home alone, that doesn’t mean that catching coronavirus is inevitable. By taking the proper precautions, you can dramatically reduce your exposure.
For more information, check out some of the pieces we used as sources for this article:
The difference that being outdoors makes:
- A Guide to Staying Safe as States Reopen: Can I eat at a restaurant? Can I go shopping? Can I hug my friends again? Experts weigh in.
- From Camping to Dining Out: Here’s How Experts Rate the Risks of 14 Summer Activities: Includes outdoor barbeque, eating in a restaurant, a wedding, public restroom, letting a friend use your bathroom, getting a haircut, and more.
- How to Weight the Risk of Going out in the Coronavirus Pandemic, in One Chart: There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about going out during a pandemic. Here’s how to think about the risk.
- When Can I See My Grandkids?: The pandemic has separated many grandparents from their grandchildren. Here’s advice for safely reuniting your family’s oldest and youngest generations.
- Social Distancing is Not Enough: We will need a comprehensive strategy to reduce the sort of interactions that can lead to more infections. Use the helpful SAFE acronym to remember what to do.
Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, LTBT shares articles that address common health issues. No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.