July 4th themed picnic table

Top 5 Questions About Safe Summer Celebrations

Posted on Thursday, July 2, 2020 by Jessie Leyse, MD, MPH

Jessie Leyse, MD, MPH is a board-certified internal medicine, pediatric and infectious disease physician.

1. How do I stay safe if I plan on going to BBQs and cookouts during the summer?

The summer is a great time of year to get together with family and friends, especially in Northern New York and Vermont. With COVID-19 still spreading in some areas of the country, it’s best to keep social gatherings small and to stay outside as much as possible.

Also, when it comes to eating, ideally, everyone would use their own (unused) utensils to serve themselves rather than each touching the same serving utensil. This will cut down on the transmission of germs from your hands.

Talk to your host about keeping a list of names of the people who attended the gathering in case someone becomes sick later. That way, it will be much easier to trace contacts and isolate those who were exposed.

2. Do I need to wear a mask doing outdoor activities/sports? What about boating, kayaking or enjoying the sun?

When preparing for outdoor activities and sports, a good question to ask yourself is always, “Will I need to be within 6 ft. of other people?” If that answer is yes, you should wear a mask. If you are outside and able to maintain social distancing, you likely don’t need to wear a mask. I always leave an extra mask in my car, just in case distancing can’t be maintained.

3. Is it okay for the in-laws or other members of my family to travel here?

Before they visit, it’s important to read about and follow your state’s quarantine requirements.

For Vermont, if you are coming from a location that has a low rate of infection (less than 400 cases per million people), you no longer need to quarantine before visiting Vermont. If you are coming from a place with a higher infection rate, all visitors are required to quarantine for up to 14 days prior to visiting. If you test negative and quarantine from home before you visit, you will not need to quarantine when you get here.

For Northern New York, if you are traveling from a state or region with significant community spread, you are required to quarantine for 14 days after you arrive in Northern New York.

4. Is it ever unsafe to wear a mask? I'm worried about heat exhaustion/heat stroke and my ability to breathe.

Masks are, in general, extremely safe. If you have a medical condition that makes wearing a mask dangerous to your health, you should quarantine as much as possible to avoid needing to wear a mask. Other options include bandanas or scarves around your nose/mouth.

Stay hydrated and in the shade and avoid being outside at the hottest times of the day. If you are worried that you may have heat exhaustion or heat stroke, seek medical attention.

5. If I go out to enjoy fireworks and find myself in a crowd, how do I stay safe?

Remember to put your mask on, and don’t touch anything. Try to separate yourself from the crowd as quickly and safely as possible. It’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer with you too.

Dr. Jessie Leyse, MD, MPH, is an Infectious Disease Physician at UVM Health Network - Central Vermont Medical Center. She attended Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for her Infectious Disease fellowship while also earning a Master’s in Public Health. During her training, Dr. Leyse traveled internationally to provide medical care in the Philippines, Guatemala, Haiti, Sub-Saharan Africa, and West Africa during the Ebola outbreak of 2014.

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