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What doctors feel safe doing during COVID-19

Note: This article was last updated in July 2020. For the latest updates on COVID-19, see

Trying to figure out what’s safe during COVID-19? Determining risk can feel exhausting.

Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, doctors and scientists are still learning about how it spreads and affects people. That’s part of the reason definitive rules can be hard to come by, and you may see health recommendations shift over time.

But we already know that some activities are riskier than others. Our physicians are navigating the new reality as well, so we asked some of them what they’re doing (and not doing) through the pandemic summer.

1. Which leisure activities do you feel safe participating in this summer? Which aspects of these activities make them safer? 

DR. CHRIS EDWARDS (chief medical officer, Piedmont Columbus Regional): I am comfortable with outside activities where social distancing can be practiced.  Hiking, the beach, and playing golf while social distancing are all great ways to get outside and allow for some exercise and stress relief.

DR. GWENETH FRANCIS (infectious disease specialist, Piedmont Fayette): This summer I have gone on multiple trail walks with my family. My son has had play dates with his friends and wears a mask. If social distance is feasible, visiting the beach would be a great option as well.

DR. ROGER LOVELL (infectious disease specialist, Piedmont Athens Regional): Outside social events such as a backyard barbecue, pool party or a picnic in the yard outside with friends and family are OK as long as there’s social distancing involved. It’s appropriate to wear a mask during these activities if there are multiple family members and friends who don’t live in the same household at the same event.

2. Which activities are you avoiding this summer because they are less safe? 

EDWARDS: Although I cannot prove it is less safe, I am avoiding commercial air travel.

FRANCIS: I am avoiding any large group activities.

LOVELL: Any indoor gathering without any social distancing, events that have crowds over 50 people in an enclosed area, inside and outdoor concerts or similar events with close seating. I still don’t believe gymnasiums are considered a safe place.

3. What precautions should everyone practice no matter what activities they’re doing? 

EDWARDS: Social distancing, wearing masks, and washing your hands frequently are the most important precautions. 

FRANCIS: Everyone should continue to wash their hands and wear a mask if unable to social distance.

LOVELL: It’s important to pay special attention to frequent hand hygiene, wearing a mask and social distancing. I’d also advise doing random temperature checks to see if you have a fever present.

4. We know that large indoor crowds are risky, but is it safer to go to a crowded outdoor location this summer like a beach or more popular hiking trail? 

EDWARDS: Again, only if you can social distance. Any crowded event, whether inside or outside, leads to increase in risk for COVID-19 exposure. 

FRANCIS: There is still a risk, but continuing to wear a mask and social distance is what is recommended.

LOVELL: Yes, I believe this can be safe if social distancing is practiced and a mask is worn. If there’s social distancing on places like the beach, hiking trail or while walking outside, a mask may not be necessary, but you should still carry one with you in case there are interactions with other people.

5. Are you patronizing businesses that require close interaction (ex: hair salons, nail parlors)? 

EDWARDS: Personally I am trying to limit exposure to these businesses, but if I need to use them then I expect mask-wearing by all. 

FRANCIS: I currently am not. My son, who is seven, gets his hair cut. He is the only client in the barber shop when he gets his hair cut. He waits in the car until it is his turn, the barber and my son both wear a mask, and they sanitize in between clients.

LOVELL: Yes, while I’m wearing a mask as the customer and the worker or employee of that business is also wearing a mask.

6. Do you dine in at restaurants or bars? If not, are you comfortable ordering takeout? 

EDWARDS: I am comfortable with takeout. I have occasionally dined in a restaurant but only if I feel the patrons are adequately spaced. 

FRANCIS: I do not dine in at restaurants or bars. I am comfortable with takeout.

LOVELL: Yes, I do, especially outdoor dining. I’ve gone to dine inside a restaurant and they had separation between tables and parties. Also, the waitress or waitresses were wearing masks.

7. Which activities do you feel comfortable letting younger kids participate in (ex: playing with friends, attending day camp)? 

EDWARDS: It all depends on whether social distancing can occur. 

FRANCIS: It depends on the policy that is enforced at the camps. Currently with our increase in COVID-19 numbers, I would prefer that mask are worn by all staff. I would like a plan for sanitizing the building and equipment the kids are using. Mask or face shields should also be worn by children depending on their age. I would also like to know there is a plan to optimize social distancing as feasible. 

LOVELL: No, I don’t feel day camps are safe at this time. With all the planned activities that usually take place, I don’t see how attention to social distancing, appropriate mask wearing and proper hand hygiene can be managed.

8. Is there anything else you’d like people to know? 

EDWARDS: COVID-19 is in the communities. Until the disease activity has decreased dramatically, I would implore everyone to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and practice social distancing.  If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home. Even if you are not worried about yourself, do these things to protect others. 

FRANCIS: We are all in this together and we can get through it if we do our best to stay safe.

LOVELL: Everyone needs to wear a mask and look out for other people. Wearing a mask by everyone can shut down this pandemic within four or five weeks.

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