Fun and Safe Summer 2021: COVID-19 Safety Guidelines
Have fun and stay safe this summer by practicing these safety tips from Infection Prevention Medical Director Cynthia Snider, MD, in this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2.
What is the number one thing we can do to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19 this summer?
"So, the one word is vaccines. We know that folks older than 65 - we've had about 75% of that population vaccinated, fully vaccinated, and now we need to work on those who are 18 and older, and even kids who are now approved- who are 12 an up can get the vaccine. And the faster we can get those shots in our arms, I think the easier it is to resume a life of what we considered as being normal over a year ago."
"And the cases are so reassuring right now. You know, we've had a 30% decrease over the last 2 weeks in the cases in North Carolina and hospitalizations. So, there's so many good things happening, and we really need to take advantage of the tools we have to protect our community."
"I think when everybody heard about the fact that fully vaccinated folks don't have to wear masks now, in most instances, it feels like a lot of relief. We know that being outdoors is very safe and then being with others who are vaccinated is also safe. Still, I would say, being in a larger group or attending a concert or where you have a very large gathering that's indoors, it's still best to wear a mask, but I think it gives you a lot of liberty and you know, we are social creatures, and I think a lot of folks want to go back out, have dinner with their friends, socializing and summer parties, and we can get there as long as everybody gets vaccinated."
Once you're fully vaccinated, what type of summer activities would be considered perfectly safe to participate in with more normalcy?
"So, I think outdoor activities, such as going swimming, having outdoor barbecues, I think playing sports outdoors, all that is considered safe."
What restrictions should we be keeping in mind even if we are vaccinated?
"So, if somebody is immunocompromised, you know, either who are undergoing cancer therapy or who may have had like an organ transplant, we feel like the risks are still - we don't know how well the vaccine works with certain populations with immune deficiency. So, it's important to wear a mask, and the flip side is that if you have a family member that's, you know, undergoing chemotherapy and such, that's when I would want friends to, if they're coming over, to be wearing a mask. The risks are mostly indoors."
If you're not fully vaccinated, what type of summer activities would be considered at a higher risk?
"That's the clutch thing. Again, if you're not vaccinated, COVID a lot of times is a can be mildly symptomatic, and so you don't know if you're going to be meeting somebody that can transmit it onto you if you don't have your masks on, and so the risks are much greater if you're not vaccinated, and especially if you want to entertain going to get meals at a restaurant that's crowded or going to a bar and such, those things end up to be probably pretty risky for an unvaccinated person."
When do you need to wear a mask? When don't you need to wear a mask?
"If you are unvaccinated, you should always be wearing a mask, indoors, even when you're going to a friend's house who you don't know their vaccine status. You can't assume that the folks that you're with [have been vaccinated], unless you know. And so I think that indoor settings, meeting up in bars and gyms and restaurants, all that can be very risky if you're unvaccinated."
"If you're vaccinated, you have that buffer protection, and especially so if you're with others that are vaccinated, it makes the risks very low."
What non-COVID-related safety measures should we keep in mind for a safe summer?
"As the summer comes on, just as always, we're starting to see people with tick borne illnesses, like tick bites. So, always, you know, if you're going out - going hiking, playing, gardening, playing with your kids, ensure that you're using bug spray for tick bite prevention, and also look out for tick bites after you've been out in the woods. And then also, kind of the key thing for when people go out for picnics is making sure your food is stays relatively cold so nobody gets any kind of food poisoning.
"But in terms of all the rates of COVID going down and the vaccine uptake we're having, this is really a breath of fresh air and we need to keep up with that momentum. And the fact that more people have access to getting the vaccine is so important. So, go to your local websites - conehealth.com/vaccines will list some vaccine sites. The FEMA site is still open for another 3 days. The vaccine is available at grocery stores and drugstores. And 12 year olds and up can get it. So, we have this very, really crucial time to getting our families and our kids back into like a daily routine of fun - what summer's about!"