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Which Fun Things Should You Do Now? Experts Respond.

As Texas continues to reopen, there is confusion about whether going out and doing things we enjoy is actually a good idea as the pandemic continues and the number of hospitalizations is on the rise. 

Should we book tickets to the aquarium or attend a barbecue this weekend? Well, it all depends.

Three health and disease experts considered several activities and told us what they would do — and what they wouldn’t do. 

Dr. Catherine L. Troisi, associate professor in the Divisions of Management, Policy, and Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health said, “It depends. Can I keep physical distancing, and are masks being worn?” 

“It’s all about cost-benefit and your (and your close contacts’) specific situation in terms of vulnerability,” Dr. Troisi said. “We know transmission risk is enhanced in closed spaces, close proximity, crowded situations, no mask protection, and longer duration (probably 15 min or longer) — so in addition to considering the cost-benefit, I would try to minimize as many of those factors as I could.”

Would you go to the museum (art and children’s), zoo or aquarium right now? 

Troisi: “I would not go to a museum or (inside) aquarium, but were my grandchildren closer, I’d certainly take them to the (outdoors) zoo, maintaining physical distancing.”

Have dinner at a restaurant with a group of friends, or the River Walk in San Antonio? 

“I would not eat at a restaurant, although I do take-out. When I’ve visited the River Walk, it’s been pretty crowded — at least the part where businesses are located. I do like to walk the part that isn’t near businesses and more natural and would walk on that part where I could maintain that physical distancing.”

Host a barbecue gathering at your home, or host a play-date or sleepover with your kid’s friends? 

“No, but to be fair, I don’t have young kids anymore.” 

Go to the mall or an outlet mall? 


Go camping or rent a campsite? 

“Not really a camper, but I would rent a cabin (am actually looking into it) for my husband and me where we could be by ourselves and not have to eat in a communal area.”

Book an Airbnb rental home for a weekend trip? 

“Hmm, at first I said no, but thinking about it, if I could assure the home had been empty for a few days before we got there, why not?”

Swim in a hotel pool? 

“Yes if I could maintain physical distancing. I’ve been swimming at my Y’s outdoor pool — one person/lane.”

Buy something from a yard sale, or use the resale app Nextdoor? 

“Yes, I’m not worried about the virus on boxes, items, etc. If I were, I’d just leave it alone for a day or so, preferably in the sun.”

Volunteer in a group setting? 

“It would depend on whether I could keep physical distancing, if people were masked, and if it were outdoors (if answers to all those are yes, then my answer would be yes).”

Fly on an airplane? 

“Oh, that’s a hard one. I sure wish I could go visit my grandbabies in Missouri and in Virginia, but I’m not comfortable flying right now just for that. But if one of my children in another state had an emergency and needed me, yes, I would fly there.”

Dr. Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, warns that taking general precautions for any public activities — whether in a social group or not — include taking care with commonly touched surfaces. Either completely avoid touching things or clean your hands both before and after touching. 

“I’m thinking of water fountains, toilet flushers, doors, handrails, elevator buttons,” she said. 

Would you go to the museum (art and children’s), zoo or aquarium right now?

Fischer: “I think this is something that could be done with minimal risk if care is taken. The reality is that children, particularly school-aged children, are very social and have a high degree of contact with each other. Safely visiting these places would probably mean that hands-on activities be avoided. It would be near impossible for staff to continually disinfect all touch surfaces between individual children, so avoidance would be best practice.”

Have dinner at a restaurant with a group of friends? 

“This is a moderate risk activity. You cannot vouch for all of the other individuals in the restaurant. Social distancing and use of masks are still the best prevention methods when people are around each other. Some lower degree of risk can be attained while sitting outside.”

Host a barbecue gathering at your home, or host a play-date or sleepover with your kid’s friends? 

“This risk will depend on your friend groups. You will be accepting not your own risk level – but also the unknown risk level that these friends/families/children have accepted in their lives apart from you. A patient recently likened this to – whomever you engage with, you are engaging with all of their contacts, families, and friends that they have been in contact with, and possibly even the next layer of the contacts of those contacts. Quaranteaming can work, but if you have even one wild card in the group, it boosts the risk level to everyone at the event.”

Go camping or rent a campsite? 

“Yes! I would count this as not only low risk, but a great activity for getting out of the house in a very real way. In general, risk of being infected is lower outdoors than indoors.”

 Book an Airbnb rental home for a weekend trip? 

“I consider this fairly low risk. You can always disinfect the common touch surfaces when you arrive and when you leave. There remains travel risk associated with getting to the destination and home.”

What about the mall or an outlet? 

“I would probably not risk visiting a mall. An outdoor mall would pose a lower risk than indoor, as outdoors in general offers more opportunities to desiccate and disperse the virus away from our breathing air.”

Swim in a hotel pool? 

“Low-moderate risk. Pools are generally low-risk, and we don’t expect transmission to be readily facilitated by pool water. However, swimmers, particularly kids, might occasionally choke/cough on water, get water up noses, and these are ways to expel virus from an infected person, making it available to an uninfected person.”

Buy something from a yard sale, or use the resale app Nextdoor? 

“Sure, should be low risk, particularly if you disinfect before touching/selling. Take care during the interaction, such as a contact-free exchange.”

Volunteer in a group setting? 

“We should be avoiding groups and certainly be doing things to break the pathway of the virus (physical distance, face barrier, and hygiene). Unless you can 100% vouch for everyone else’s actions and the actions of their contacts, you will be accepting not only your risk comfort but theirs as well.”

 Fly on an airplane? 

“Nope, I would not do this. Symptoms can actually develop rapidly, over a few hours. I certainly wouldn’t want to be confined in the closed space of an airplane if this happened and someone expelled the virus out, only to be recirculated around the cabin! There are a number of documented events where spread has occurred while indoors — restaurants, workplaces, churches, parties — and airplanes are still on one of my top activities to avoid.”

Minimizing Risk

When it comes to planning activities at this time, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of infectious disease at Baylor College of Medicine.

“Minimizing risk while finding new and modified ways to participate in activities is the kind of solution to aim for,” he said. 

“Up to 25% (or potentially more) of infections with coronavirus might be asymptomatic, meaning that someone could be feeling fine but still be harboring the infection. It is difficult to know who these people are since they do not have symptoms, hence the need for continued social distancing,” Dr. Kulkarni said.

Find out as much as they can ahead of time about the particular activities you are thinking about participating in, Dr. Kulkarni suggests.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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