Doctor explains how to stay safe at socially distanced picnic

As the weather warms and many states continue to reopen, getting outdoors has never been more attractive. It's understandable - we've all been stuck inside for weeks, and many of us have been stuck inside for months. However, enjoying the summer weather during the coronavirus pandemic requires finding some safe outdoor activities. So don’t pack your picnic basket just yet.

Beaches, pools, campgrounds and parks have reopened in many states. But you shouldn't expect to enjoy these public spaces the same way you did before March. Yosemite National Park is allowing visitors after being closed for two months. However, all commercial services in the park will be closed, the Mercury News reported. Guests are required to bring all food, drinks, supplies, and a full tank of gas. Other national parks across the country have begun to reopen, but some are still off-limits to areas such as campgrounds to help prevent potential virus exposure.

If you're wondering whether it's safe to have a picnic outside, the answer is yes, but there are some important caveats. Like nearly every other aspect of our daily lives, the way we enjoy the outdoors will need to adapt as we work to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Continue to practice social distancing and limit time with others

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends that people practice social distancing and wear a mask when social distancing is not possible. Basic guidelines for appropriate social distancing are:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people
  • Please do not gather
  • Stay away from crowded places and avoid crowd gatherings

"The problem is, even if you're outside and sit with someone for 10 minutes or more, that's still close contact," said Dr. Jessie Abbate, an infectious disease biologist from Virginia and a researcher at France's National Institute for Development Research. . Tell the hustle. "The longer you sit together, or even the further apart you are, the more virus particles are able to cross all barriers to infect you."

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Keep teams small and consistent

Dr. Abate recommends keeping one or two groups aligned with the people you plan to gather with. "Remember," she said, "when you have lunch with a friend, you may also be having lunch with any virus from everyone they've seen in the past two weeks."

Dr. Abate noted that gathering outdoors is safer than gathering indoors. However, the profit is very small. Preliminary research suggests the risk of coronavirus spreading outdoors is lower, but that doesn't completely eliminate the risk of transmission. “This virus is not contained,” Dr. Abate said, “and it’s not going to slow down on its own. The less dangerous things you and your neighbors do, the longer you can delay the second wave of stay-at-home measures. "

If you have any symptoms, stay home

The CDC's guidance for parks and recreation facilities lists staying home if you don't feel well as one of the key things to remember when gathering outdoors. Some of these symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, or recent loss of taste or smell. Additionally, you should continue to cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

It may seem strange or inconvenient to follow these guidelines, but you know what’s worse than being inconvenient? Get and spread coronavirus. Enjoy the outdoors and go on a picnic with a few friends, but remember to stay safe.


Dr. Jessie Abbate is an infectious disease biologist from Virginia and a researcher at France's National Institute for Development Research.