Whether you’re a local living in a coastal community, or a traveler looking for activities that allow proper social distancing, it’s time to break up the monotony of binge watching Netflix or playing published online roulette games, and head to the beach!
Many of our favorite travel pastimes like socializing at bars or checking out the local museums are no longer advisable in high transmission areas. Thankfully though, outdoor settings such as beaches have been proven to be far less risky for spreading and catching the coronavirus.
While heading to the beach is generally considered COVID-safe, it’s important to realize you can still be at risk, especially if you’re unvaccinated. And there are still a few helpful safety measures to be aware of for both locals and travelers alike.
While the three golden rules apply: stay home if you’re sick, maintain physical distancing, and continuing to wash/sanitize your hands, here are some of the other important measures you can take to ensure you stay COVID-safe at the beach.
Beach Vacations and Coronavirus: How to Protect Yourself
Choosing a Beach
The first line of defensive when visiting the beach is to select one that is unlikely to be crowded. Popular urban beaches make it difficult to carve out a slice of private sand to yourself.
While the health guidelines say you should maintain a distance of at least 1.5-2 meters distance between you and other beachgoers, it’s better if you can keep as far away as possible.
Research whether there are alternative beach options nearby. It’s worth driving a bit further to a remote beach where you can enjoy more peace and space.
You can gage how busy a beach is by the number of cars in the beach parking lot or possibly head online to check local beach live webcams if available to observe the current activity level
Safety on the Beach
You should aim to keep a minimum of around 6 feet from other beachgoers, which roughly equates to the length of a large beach towel. Remember to also keep a safe distance when entering the beach via an access point.
Evidence has shown that the virus tends to die off quickly when exposed to direct sunlight thanks to a mix of heat and UV radiation.
This means virus particles are unlikely to survive on beach sand for long periods. Virus particles in the air also tend to be dispersed more quickly thanks to usual coastal winds.
Despite this information, it’s always wise to seek out a section of sand that looks undisturbed which means it wouldn’t have seen other beachgoers recently.
You may also want to avoid setting up your beach towels/chairs downwind from others whenever possible so the particles they expel in the air won’t head towards you.
Safety in the Water
While there is still more research to be done, the general consensus is that the coronavirus can survive in saltwater for a period of time.
However, waterborne transmission seems to be highly unlikely thanks to a mix of factors including the virus being diluted by a large volume of water as well as being carried quickly away by ongoing waves.
You should still aim to avoid getting too close to other swimmers and surfers, as they may expel saliva/mucous into the water around them. However, you still want to always swim between the safety flags to avoid dangerous conditions such as rips.
Wearing a mask while in the water is not advised since breathing can become difficult when the mask becomes wet and it may make the mask less effective when using it back on land.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there may be fewer or no lifeguards on duty thanks to council budget cuts or new safety protocols. Lifeguard rescue and the treatments they can provide may have also been affected.
For example, mouth-to mouth resuscitation may no longer be performed and lifeguards may be instructed to talk you through various first-aid treatments rather than perform them on you themselves.
The takeaway here is that you should stick to normal safety advice when swimming in the ocean such as swimming between the flags and not stray beyond your own personal swimming ability in case lifeguards are not present or their life-saving services are limited.
Using Restrooms and Changing Rooms
The best advice is to avoid using both public restrooms and changing rooms altogether. This can be achieved by changing at home or in your vehicle. You can also limit the duration of your beach visits to minimize the need to use the restrooms.
The main reasons you should avoid public restrooms and changing rooms is that they are often confined spaces where the virus can congregate and survive in the air for longer periods.
If you must use either, first check to make sure they seem to be regularly cleaned and limit the amount of time you spend in them as much as possible. You will also want to wear your mask while using either.
Avoid touching surfaces in public restrooms/changing rooms whenever possible and always wash or sanitize your hands upon your exit.
Try to avoid using blower hand dryers as this can greatly disperse contaminated air. Also, be sure to close the lid of the toilet before flushing for a similar reason to the blowing hand dryers.
Avoid Unsafe Beach Activities
Activities that see you constantly moving such as running or walking are best for avoiding close and prolonged contact with others, but lounging on the beach or allowing the kids to build sandcastles should be safe so long as you maintain adequate social distancing.
You should always bring all your own equipment and not rely on renting things like beach chairs, umbrellas, or recreation equipment like paddleboards and surfboards.
You can’t be assured that rented or shared items were properly disinfected in-between uses. Likewise, you shouldn’t share any of your equipment with any other beachgoers outside of your household.
Some public beaches may even be restricting the use of beach chairs, umbrellas, and coolers in a bit to keep people moving, so check your local beach restrictions before you head out. There may also be limits on how large of a group you can have.
Be sure to clean any beach gear you brought with you when you get home. This includes items like beach chairs, towels, your smartphone, and anything items that were in constant contact with public surfaces.
It’s common to grab a bite to eat from a local beachside café, restaurant, or kiosk, but it may be safer to pack your own food with you. If you do decide to order items from local businesses, try to get takeaway food or at least stick to outdoor seating.
Avoid crowded establishments or ones that force you to queue up in long lines. Avoid sharing food and utensils with your friends, especially if you don’t live together.
Remember to wear a mask when lining up and ordering, wash or sanitize your hands before digging into your meal, and make sure any public outdoor tables have been thoroughly cleaned before you sit down.
There is no denying that the pandemic has altered our lives in many ways.
While many of these beach COVID-safe precautions may seem a bit over-the-top, anything we can all do to limit the spread of the virus until the majority of the population is vaccinated will help to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed and save lives.
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