Texas, and Arizona have recently reported the highest single-day totals of new
COVID-19 cases. The data suggests that reopening too quickly, without adequate
guidelines and restrictions is a documented failure. Consequently, Washington
State is the latest state to delay its reopening plans. No matter how much we
want to return to our normal lives, our lives before COVID-19, we must remain
vigilant! The Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious
Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has repeatedly said, “You don’t make the timeline;
the virus makes the timeline.”
The pandemic is not over and is not going away
anytime soon. We can’t just go off to bars, sporting events, concerts, or
summer camps and pretend all is well. Instead, we must learn to live with the
virus for now. While feelings of frustration, confusion and even depression
have become commonplace, we cannot let our guard down…whether your area is in
red, yellow, green or phase 1, 2, or 3.
According to Aaron Hamilton, MD, Associate
Chief Safety and Quality Officer at The Cleveland Clinic, “There’s still a lot
of COVID-19 in our communities and in our hospitals. We’ve done a lot in society
to flatten the curve, which kept people safe and helped healthcare manage the
critically ill patients – but this isn’t going away over the course of the
summer. The virus is not gone.”
As states and businesses open back up and life
tries to carry on, it can be tricky to determine what activities and events are
safe and what’s worth skipping. Dr. Hamilton feels that being aware of (and
following!) the proper guidelines and safety measures can help you determine
the risk level associated with a particular activity. There are actions we can
all take that might not look or feel normal, but they can help protect us as we
all learn to live in this new world.
Consider time, space & people: These are the three main factors to consider attending an activity or event; time, space and people
Less is better! Carefully weigh how much time
you’ll be spending at the activity. Less time means limiting your risk of
exposure to the virus.
Where is the activity or event being held...outside
or indoors? If it’s indoors, consider how enclosed or ventilated the space is.
We know that it’s safer to be outside than inside (but that doesn’t mean the
risk of catching the virus outdoors is zero). You should also consider if the
space has a limit on how many people can be there at one time. This will clue
you in to how easy or difficult it will be to maintain physical distance from
Are the people attending the activity or event
outside of your direct household? Consider if they will be following and respecting
safety guidelines, which include:
- Social distancing a minimum of six feet from others.
- Wearing a face mask.
- Practicing good hand hygiene and cleanliness.
- Not sharing food or touching common surfaces.
- Staying home when feeling sick.
on the spectrum does the activity fall?
“When thinking about the risk of an activity,
I like to think of it as a spectrum,” explains Dr. Hamilton. “It’s less about
safe vs. not safe, and more about layers of risk. Everybody will have to do a
risk assessment for themselves and determine where they’re comfortable and what
safety guidelines they’re going to follow.”
On one end of the spectrum, the absolute
safest thing to do is to stay at home with your family. On the other end of the
spectrum would be large, indoor gatherings. Certain activities will always
carry a much higher risk than others. A large, indoor concert is going to be
more dangerous than an outdoor picnic with a couple of friends who are
following safety measures. How often you choose to partake in riskier
activities and events matters as well.
The degree of safety depends on the degree to
which you comply with the guidelines.
9 popular activities and events and what to consider when it comes to weighing the risk.
(Dr. Aaron Hamilton, The Cleveland Clinic)
- Get a haircut at a salon or barbershop: Low to medium risk. Call ahead and verify that your salon or barbershop is following proper guidelines, like requiring everyone to wear a face mask, spacing clients out, screening for symptoms and ensuring sanitation measures between every single client.
- Go to the doctor or have a procedure done: Low risk. Hospitals, emergency departments and doctor’s offices are taking extra precautions to keep patients safe during the pandemic. From emergency care to elective procedures like liposuction and Botox – healthcare is safe and following the most up-to-date protocols. Many health systems are also now requiring patients to get tested for COVID-19 a few days prior to having a procedure. Virtual telemedicine options are also great for those who have a chronic medical condition or those who still want to remain at home during the pandemic.
- Exercise at the gym: High risk. Right now, the safest place to work out is at home
or outside, but the decision to return to the gym after quarantine is personal. If you decide to go, you’ll want to
minimize your time there to reduce your risk of exposure. So get in, get
your workout done and get out. Also consider gyms with fresh air
ventilation, like open windows or garage doors. Check to make sure proper
guidelines are being followed – like limiting people, regularly sanitizing
equipment and social distancing.
on an airplane: High risk. At
this point in time, we should avoid unnecessary travel. If you absolutely must
get on an airplane, it’s important to follow safety guidelines. Limit what you
touch, wear a face mask, wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face and
maintain physical distance from others (especially waiting in line to board the
plane or waiting at baggage claim).
- Go to a barbeque, graduation party or wedding: Medium
to high risk (depending on the crowd). Consider
whether you will be outside or inside and if you can maintain physical
distance from those outside of your direct household. Also, consider how
the food is served and how much you’ll be touching shared surfaces. A
family-style dinner or shared dessert table is not recommended at this
time. Remember, your risk is considerably lower if you’re around fewer
people. You’ll need to determine if you’ll be interacting with others who
are taking safety measures seriously. Every new person you interact with
carries a risk.
- Go to a restaurant (outdoors vs. indoors): Low to high
risk. Having dinner outside on a
patio and away from others outside of your direct household is much less
risky than sitting inside, say at the bar. Many restaurants follow
guidelines that include: Spacing tables out, servers wearing masks and
putting up physical barriers between tables. Unfortunately, eating and
drinking doesn’t quite lend itself to wearing a face mask, so you’ll need
to take that into consideration as well. Call ahead to find out what
protocols are being followed so you know what to expect before you go.
- Attend a class or workshop: Medium risk. Whether it’s an art class, DIY workshop or a training
group for your dog, be sure to check what precautions are in place to keep
you safe. Group size should be limited, people should be spaced out and
equipment should not be shared. Call ahead to determine if face masks will
be required and if the space is cleaned between groups or classes. Also
consider if the class or workshop is taking place outdoors or inside.
- Visit a beach: Low to medium risk. Risk increases when beaches become crowded and people
can’t keep a safe distance from one another. But if you’re able to
physically separate yourself from others, you can swim and enjoy the beach
- Go to the pool: Medium to high risk. Problems arise during the social activities that
usually happen when hanging around pools. The danger isn’t necessarily in
the water itself, but from the people that you’ll likely interact with
while at the pool. Crowded locker rooms, waiting in line for a water
slide, chairs bunched together and others wading in the water near you can
all carry a risk. Determine if your pool is limiting people, spacing out
chairs and enforcing social distancing, especially while swimming or
waiting in line.
As we all try to determine our new normal,
remind yourself that the recommendations are there to keep COVID-19 in a place
where we can manage it until we have treatments and vaccines available.
EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”
Check out all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in our archives at: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical
treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please
contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic
Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in
orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice
and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth
School of Medicine