Summer is when families and friends get together, plan barbecues, hit the pool and the lake, take trips to their favorite destinations — only now everyone has COVID-19 on their minds. How do you handle social distancing and enjoy summer at the same time?
Here we share a Q&A with Dr. Charles J. Lerner, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force.
What should families keep in mind for at-home gatherings with family and friends through the summer?
Wash your hands as you enter the gathering and frequently while you are there. Keep up social distancing — remain more than 6 feet from everyone who does not live in your household. Wear a mask to protect others. No hugging. No buffets. Any food that is served should be prepared as individual servings by someone who was wearing a mask and gloves. The disease is spread primarily by droplets from our mouth when we speak as well as cough or sneeze.
What activities are best for when there are groups of children spending time together, like cousins or friends?
Even children should practice social distancing, hand hygiene and, if old enough, wear a mask. Remember that 30-50% of people who have the infection and who are contagious have no symptoms.
Any thoughts about places like campgrounds or picnics in parks, or hotels and pools?
The water in a pool is safe, but you must be more than 6 feet from other people when you are talking to them. Decontaminate all surfaces in a hotel including door knobs, bathrooms, desks, the arms of chairs, etc. If you do not have a disinfectant solution, you can make one simply by adding 2 tablespoons of Clorox to a quart of water and mixing it up in a spray bottle. As long as the surface remains wet for at least five minutes it will be decontaminated.
Are you OK with potluck foods, or is it best to eat before you arrive at a get-together?
Hot food is safe. Buffets, salads and cold foods should be avoided.
The state is reopening, but that doesn’t mean having a full-fledged party just yet. When can we relax?
When we have at least two very effective medications that are readily available (we do not yet have even one), we can begin to relax because if infected there should be effective treatment options. Having a full-fledged party returning will not be safe until we have an effective vaccine.
What about fall?
There are no data on which to base a prediction for the fall. The disease is raging in tropical countries, so there is no reason to expect the summer heat to affect the disease. What we can expect in the fall is a resurgence of influenza, which will complicate diagnosis of both infections.