Coronavirus: Traveling? Public pools? Doctor weighs in on what will be safe to do this summer

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Coronavirus: Doctor weighs in on what will be safe to do this summer
Wondering what will be safe to do this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here's what a doctor thinks will be safe to do these next few months.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We are halfway into a year with few opportunities for traditional vacations or holiday activities amid the coronavirus pandemic. So going forward, how do you make summer plans as things begin to open up? Is it safe to book a trip? Go to the beach?

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ABC7 News reporter Leslie Brinkleyasked UC Berkeley School of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Arthur Reingold, who is digging deep into all the new research about COVID-19. What would he feel safe doing this summer?

Would you go to a public pool?

"My concerns about being in a pool don't relate to being in the water. They relate to being in a group of people near the water...We don't really think that this virus can't survive in a chlorinated swimming pool ...obviously many people, when they go to a swimming pool, are involved in a close conversation, they're involved with changing in the changing room where there are a lot of people around. So I think the concern isn't with the poolit has more to do with if it is near the pool than actually swimming. So I personally would be prepared to go swimming in a pool.But I will be cautious about the exposures I had to other people getting to the pool and getting out of the pool. And dressed afterward, to me, those would be the risk factors."

Would you go to a beach?

"First of all we know that sunlight is bad for this virus, the outdoors is bad for this virus...So I think that people can beon a beach and still social distance and still show good intelligent behavior around mask use. I see no problem with being on the beach."

Would you travel by plane?

"My own personal view is that it is possible to travel safely on a plane, through airports, but it does include a situation where you're wearing a mask, hand washing and being careful about trying to maintain social distancing at the airport. Obviously, on the plane itself, you can't be terribly distantfrom someone else. So I think that the path that we're heading with this serious illness, they have to think carefully about whether they want to take that additional risk or not. And, of course, there's the other problem, which is visiting your grandchildren or loved ones.

I do have two daughters who were both expecting babies in August, and we're still negotiating exactly what it's going to look like. Again I personally will be prepared to fly to those locations. We do need to discuss whether they want me to then isolate someplace for a week upon arrival before we enter the house. We haven't quite finished those negotiations yet."

Would you take a road trip?

"The car is a lot safer than going to the airport and getting on a plane because all we really need to negotiate is stopping for gas or going to the bathroom and we can take our own food.So we could actually arrive quite safely if you're careful when you make those necessary stops."

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Would you stay in a hotel?

"I think that the transmission on surfaces, like beds mattresses floors rugs, is actually a pretty small part of this problem. I know there are studies saying it can survive on surfaces but certainly if you're worried about that you can take your disinfectant wipes, wipe the countertops, and you're able to reinforce the cleaning done by the hotel.I think,in fact, the risk associated with staying in a hotel is probably quite small."

Would you go camping?

"I haven't been camping in a while, I used to do it when the kids were little, but I think you can pretty wellprotect yourself. After all, your tent isn't necessarily close to other people.You can social distance. You can go on a trail.

Here in California, when you're going for walks, if you see someone else come in, you step aside, you let them go by at a safe distance. I think that's possible to do while hiking. Then I think in terms of when you set up your tent or your camper, it is certainly possible to do that safely."

Would you send your child to summer day camp?

"This is an extraordinarily difficult question. I know some camps are not going to open for the summer. I know other camps are going to limit the density of children. I know some camps are going to try and cohort children, so your child is in the same cohort as perhaps six or eight other children for the entire camp session with the same counselor to reduce the risk of exposure among children. So, I think different camps are taking different approaches to try to increase safety. I think it really will be a question of what's that camp doing?

There is some risk associated with exposure to more people, of course. You may be more willing to take that risk if you have no one in your household who's elderly or immunosuppressed. But if you have elderly grandparents living in the same home, you may want to be a little more cautious in making a decision like that.

So I think some of it is going to be individual decision making on the part of the parents, in terms of if the child does become infected, who else might be at risk when they come home?"

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How do you navigate public restrooms?

"I would divide public restrooms into two types: one is where there's only one person using it at a time and those where there can be multiple people In the bathroom at one time. In the bathroom where there is only room for the person like you might find in a number of service stations for example, if you're concerned about surfaces you can do a little surface disinfecting if you want, but I think generally the risk of using such a bathroom, as long as you're good about handwashing when you're done, is low.

I think the bigger issue is if it's a bathroom where half a dozen people can be inside at the same time. We know that close proximity to people is part of transmission. If you're going to have to be in situation like that, a mask is very important in addition to good hand washing. But I think if one can avoid a lot of people crowded into one bathroom at one same time, that would be preferable. "

ABC7 production assistant Michelle Kelly contributed to this report.

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