As the weather heats up, many of us are contemplating how to safely go out into the world and enjoy the summer. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to CNN contributor and immunologist Erin Bromage about what to consider before doing anything including hosting a backyard party, going for a hike and taking your family on a road trip.
You can listen on your favorite podcast app, or read the transcript below.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: As the summer heats up, people all over the country are considering how much risk they are willing to take as they venture outside. Some are thinking about reuniting with friends and family for the first time. Others are trying to decide whether or not to take a road trip. What about a physically distanced backyard barbecue?
Just how risky is it to make this summer feel like, well, summer?
It is important to understand what the likelihood of contracting the coronavirus is and transmitting it so you can make the right decisions for yourself and your family.
I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. And this is “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction.”
Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: So I have an 11- , a nearly 11- and 13-year-old. And so the conversations we’re having now are about what our summer looks like.
Gupta: That’s Erin Bromage, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and CNN contributor. Since his blog post about avoiding situations with a high risk of infection went viral, he’s become a resource for many people.
Bromage: You know, our summer does look a little bit different. And there’s been a lot of tears in this house over the last eight weeks. But we’re trying to, you know, gain normalcy for our children as much as we can.
Gupta: The possibilty of having a normal summer is on a lot of our minds. So I asked Erin about some of the questions I’ve been hearing from you. Starting with pools: Is it safe to take a dip?
Bromage: Properly maintained pool water will not be a source of spread of the virus. The chlorine that’s in it will inactivate virus fairly quickly, and the level of dilution that would happen in a pool or an ocean or a large freshwater body would not lead to enough virus to establish an infection.
But when you do this, you need to just make sure that we’re maintaining an appropriate physical distance and create a little bit of extra space.
Gupta: I don’t know if you or your family members have been doing any hiking or going for long walks around your neighborhood.
What precautions do you think people should take if they just want to go for a walk or a hike?
Bromage: Yes. So we have as a family, we each have three masks. We have a better-quality one if we’re getting into grocery stores or anywhere we know there’s going to be a lot of people.
We have one when we’re just going to do a short errand.
But then we have our general sort of mask, which is a neck gator that we use anytime we go hiking or around the neighborhoods where we know that we are able to social distance the vast majority of time.
But there are some times where the path may narrow. And, you know, while the brief encounter is not as risky as the longer one, it’s not “no risk.” And you don’t know the risk factors of the person that is walking past you.
And I tend to take masks a little bit more altruistically. It is about me wearing them to protect others. And so when we get in that situation, we just literally pull up our gator masks over our face. We do that about, you know, 50 feet out from the person or people so they can see what we’re doing. And then we just run a little bit of as wide a berth as we possibly can.
Gupta: Games like soccer or basketball. Would you, would you be OK? People playing those?
Bromage: Yeah. I’m a youth soccer coach, and I really want to get my teams out on the field but not playing scrimmages yet. We’re not sure enough, especially with children, about their role in infection and transmission. So, no, I’m not yet there for those sports.
But as long as it doesn’t bring you in face-to-face contact. I think the risk is low. A baseball, a Frisbee is not right up there on where I’m spending my anxiety.
Gupta: What about a road trip this summer for a family? They want to go on a road trip and stay in either a hotel or an Airbnb, something like that?
Bromage: If it’s your own family, I’m not too concerned.
Call ahead to the hotel or the Airbnb that you’re going to stay at. Ask what they’re cleaning protocols are and what their staff are wearing while they’re cleaning the room. And if that comes into line with what your risk is for your family, then I would proceed.
Gupta: A medium-size gathering like a birthday party or a wedding ceremony? Would you be OK with that?
Bromage: Weddings done outside with appropriate spacing? Absolutely. It can be done. A birthday party, again in a backyard outside can be done. I just encourage people to bring their own chairs.
While it’s nice to stand up and chat, we find people start to move closer and closer the more comfortable that they feel. And if you’ve got a chair, you don’t drift. And that just maintains the safety while keeping the social aspect.
Gupta: I really love your practicality ’cause you’re thinking exactly how people probably behave.
Disney World. They’re planning on opening up in July. What do you think about amusement parks?
Bromage: Yeah, so amusement parks. I mean, if they can institutionalize cleaning and, you know, keeping systems like lines organized better than almost anyone we know, they’re in the business of doing that.
But when we’re bringing a lot of people together, we know the risks come up. My major concern comes with the rides that put people into slip streams.
I don’t know enough about aerodynamics and transmission on roller coasters, but I can only imagine from being on them in the past that someone that’s screaming in front of you, whatever is coming out of them, is coming directly onto you in a pretty intense way for a few minutes.
Gupta: You know, families, for example, who have been quite diligent about staying at home, being in their quarantine, only seeing the people that they live with and that now they want to know if it’s OK to sort of expand their bubble, as in start seeing other families or people who’ve also been diligent about quarantine.
Expanding the family bubble to include another family. What do you think about that? Do you consider that a risky practice?
Bromage: It really comes down to having a great discussion with that other family first. I am finding over and over what one family believes is being very risk averse is not the same as another family describes being risk averse.
My general feeling is that this can and should be done. Developing a a bigger bubble, a social network definitely creates more interactions, more opportunities for the virus to get into that group.
But the benefit of having that social interaction, the reduction in anxiety, if you get together with the right family, just the spirit of community and being together has so many upsides in regards to general health and the reduced depression and reduced anxiety that I think that that’s where we need to be moving.
I think social interactions are really important. It’s what we’re trying to emphasize, is just the physical distance away from others. I still wouldn’t be bringing another bubble into my household yet. I’m still not quite comfortable with that.
But out in my yard, having a barbecue. Spending time together. Throwing a Frisbee outside. Walking our dogs. I’m all for that.
Gupta: Erin raises a great point about how important social interaction is for human beings. After such a long period of isolation, there may be some things that are worth taking a risk for.
But you should still be cautious when you’re playing in the park. Be sure to wear a mask, wash your hands and avoid contact with vulnerable people afterward. People who are elderly, people who have preexisting conditions.
While we talk about this — the risk people are willing to take — it’s hard not to acknowledge the pictures we’ve been seeing a lot, of people, shoulder to shoulder, protesting from the past few days. We’re going to talk about that specifically tomorrow.
Thanks for listening.