It’s almost the Fourth of July, and while most of us are used to spending the day with friends at the beach or by the pool, this year we’re celebrating a little differently.
The coronavirus pandemic has gone nowhere, and numbers are skyrocketing with the three-most populous states setting new records for new coronavirus cases daily.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean canceling your plans for the day, there are steps you can take to keep yourself and others around you healthy this holiday:
Going to a restaurant or cafe
Restaurants and bars across the country have reopened to the public. While the option is there, it’s important to realize that eating out will increase your risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
If you still choose to eat at a restaurant or cafe to celebrate the Fourth, there are a few precautions you can take.
You should be seated at a table with a minimum distance of 6 feet from other tables. While this won’t entirely eliminate the risk of infection – fans and air conditioning can allow respiratory particles from someone’s sneeze or cough to travel farther – it will create some distance from other customers.
It’s best to visit restaurants that mandate employees wear masks. While that does add a layer of protection, there is still a risk from other customers who can’t wear masks while they eat and talk.
Another tip is visiting restaurants that offer contactless menus you can access on your phone or have tables surrounded by protective barriers, such as acrylic glass or screens.
Outside dining is safer than indoor dining. Maintaining eye protection via glasses and intermittent mask use between bites and sips would also decrease the risk of transmission.
It’s also important to remember that the longer the time someone is exposed to a person who is infectious, the greater the risk – so it’s also a good idea to spend as little time in the restaurant as possible.
Booking a rental home or cabin
While a holiday weekend can mean an overnight trip or weekend getaway, amid a pandemic many people have major concerns about the risk of staying in a hotel room, rental home or cabin in the woods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is clear that travel heightens your chance of getting or spreading Covid-19. However, many hotels and rental companies have established new guidelines and sanitation procedures.
No matter what type of stay you’re planning, the primary concern is coming into close contact (less than 6 feet) with an infected person who may or may not be showing symptoms.
Another tip is to minimize your contact with surfaces – tabletops, chairs, bathroom sinks, duvet covers – that haven’t been cleaned or disinfected.
Wear a face covering and practice social distancing in common areas. Minimize time in enclosed, less ventilated spaces, like elevators. Avoid contact with “high-touch” surfaces in shared spaces, like the elevator call button, door handles and dining tables and chairs.
Heading to a beach or a pool
It’s July and the summer heat can be brutal. What’s better than splaying out on the beach or cannonballing into the pool?
Since risk of infection is thought to be lower outside, where wind can blow the virus away, you can have fun without fear, as long as you observe social distancing measures.
Before heading out, it’s a good idea to find out if the pool or beach you’re going to is enforcing safety protocols, like social distancing rules or restricting the number of people who have access at one time. If you find that the beach or pool is too crowded to always maintain at least 6 feet from others, it might be safer to save the trip for another day.
Bring your own disinfectant wipes to clean shared chairs or pool toys and wear a face mask when you’re not in the water.
Whether you’re in or out of the water, keep your distance from other people. Don’t swim close enough to other people that you’ll come in contact with their spit or breath.
Don’t blow your nose or spit in the pool or near another person. If you can, exit the water and use a tissue to cough or sneeze, then wash your hands.
Planning a barbecue
Depending on your state, there may be regulations and limits on how many people can attend a social gathering.
Remember that the more people you come in contact with, the higher your risk of getting infected. if you are going to invite people you haven’t been isolating with, there are a few precautions you can take to make your cookout safer.
One tip is having everyone bring their own food and plastic utensils – this means no shared bowl of chips. Hot dogs and hamburgers should go directly from the grill to a person’s plate, not to a big tray of food. Different households should sit together — separately.
If you have a lot of people in attendance, its also a good idea to wear a mask.
If guests have no choice but to go inside your home to use the bathroom, have all the doors going toward the bathroom open, so no one has to touch any other handles. Have guests use a piece of tissue to open and close the bathroom door and make a note to close the toilet seat before flushing.
Flying out of state
For anyone traveling out of state this holiday weekend, things are looking a lot different from before the pandemic. If you’re heading to the airport, you can take various precautions to make your trip safe.
Before you arrive, pack hand sanitizer and use it to clean your hands as often as possible throughout your journey. As you make your way past the ticket counters and through security, try to touch as few surfaces as possible and wear a mask the entire time.
Once you are inside the concourse and headed for your gate, avoid crowded areas. If you have the time, skip the train that moves passengers between terminals and walk.
On the plane, you can try to choose a window seat, which could reduce your exposure to passengers passing by in the aisle. Then turn up the gasper, the adjustable outlet that shoots cool air down onto your seat, as high as you can.
Going on a camping trip
This is usually the time of year that campers are out in full force – from bare-bones backpackers to folks who roll RV-style – but this year, state and national parks across America have been closed.
As things start to open back up, many people are considering taking camping trips this holiday weekend. If that’s part of your plan, here are some precautions you can take to stay safe.
The best idea is to find a campground that has few to no people around. If there are other campers near you, always maintain social distancing and wear a mask. Set up your campsite – including sleeping, campfire and eating areas – to be as far as possible from nearby campsites that hold people from different households.
Arrive with your own soap, surface disinfectants, hand sanitizer, paper towels and toilet paper. Avoid contact sports, like outdoor basketball courts.
Unlike hotels or rental homes, campgrounds typically have only shared bathrooms which can expose you to a higher risk of transmission. Avoid touching as many surfaces as possible and use a tissue or wipe to open stalls or doors. Close the toilet seat when you flush, and immediately wash your hands after touching any surfaces.
Watching fireworks at the park
Fireworks are arguably the best part of Fourth of July. But this year, gathering at the park or the beach to watch spectacular shows is more dangerous than usual.
Staying home and lighting your own fireworks if you live in a state where that is allowed and you have the space to do it is the best idea. But if you’d rather go to the park or beach to watch them, there are a few steps you should take to stay safe.
As always, wear a mask when you are near people. Always maintain social distancing, and avoid going if it is too crowded to do so. Bring your own chairs or blankets, and wash your hands if you touch any kind of shared surfaces.
While this year might look a little different than usual, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday weekend with friends and family. Just stay safe – not just for you, but for everyone around you.
CNN’s Thomas A. Russo, Elizabeth Marder, Paloma Beamer, Scottie Andrew, Adrienne Vogt, Josiah Ryan and Forrest Brown contributed to this report.