Editor's note:  Is it safe to get back to the life you knew? As services come back, we’re asking our doctors and other providers to help answer those questions in a series called Navigating COVID: Back to life. You’ll find those stories, and many others, here. Got a question? Email [email protected].

As the July 4 holiday descends, many people will flock to pools, beaches, trails and picnics. 

 It’s important to follow local and state guidance that determines when and how recreational facilities may operate. Rules can differ from state to state, and even among counties within a state, so check to make sure what the local rules are. Remember, in North Carolina you need to wear a mask in public. It's the best way to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Dr. David Schmitz
Dr. David Schmitz

We asked Dr. David Schmitz of Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine - Bolivia for advice about participating in some common summer activities.

What precautions should I take at a swimming pool?

No evidence shows the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.

While there is ongoing community spread of COVID-19, it is important for individuals as well as owners and operators of these facilities to take steps to ensure health and safety:

  • Everyone should follow local and state guidance that may determine when and how recreational water facilities may operate.
  • Individuals should continue to protect themselves and others at recreational water venues, both in and out of the water, by practicing social distancing, wearing face masks when not in the pool and practicing good hand hygiene.

What precautions should I follow at the beach?

Going to the beach should be treated like going to any other social setting, like the grocery or other stores. Practice proper social distancing, avoid groups larger than 10 individuals and wear protective facial masks when you’re not in the water. Bring a hand sanitizing solution with you to clean your hands frequently.

Is hiking OK and what steps should I take to be safe?

Going on a hike along a public nature trail will have similar exposure risk and require the same precautions as going to the beach. If you are "going off the grid" and hiking deep in the mountains, this will decrease your risk of transmission directly from others during your trek. However, all recommendations in effect now apply for traveling to and from the hiking site. In both scenarios, make sure to bring hand cleaner/sanitizer with you, just to be safe.

What steps should I take if I attend a party or barbeque at someone else’s home?

When visiting another’s home for an event, make sure it is being held outside. It should also follow current recommendations that there will not be more than 10 individuals present, and there will be room for everyone to social distance while there. All food should be served with single-use serving utensils, which means no one should use the same fork, spoon or spatula to collect food. Bring your own beverages to drink and you own chairs to sit on. I would recommend using a protective face mask when you’re not eating. If you have to use the restroom while visiting, make sure you have hand sanitizer and gloves to use and wear when touching surfaces in the home.

Any tips for traveling by car, train and airplane?

  • Car: Your own vehicle is as clean as you keep it. When stopping for gas, food or lodging on a trip, all the protective recommendations apply – gloves, face mask, social distancing and hand sanitizer.
  • Train and airplane: Public transportation presents the highest risk of transmission for the virus. Trains can see hundreds of individuals per day and planes have many people seated close together for long periods of time with filtered – but still recycled – air. A high level of vigilance is required to protect yourself. I would recommend never taking your mask off, avoid accepting a drink unless absolutely needed, use hand sanitizing wipes to clean the entire surface of the beverage container before drinking. Don’t eat any food offered. Wear gloves during the entire time of travel and have extras to replace any that become damaged. Clean all items you use during travel to ensure their surfaces do not become contaminated. Avoid trains and airplanes unless there are no other options.

Fireworks safety

Summer is a popular time for fireworks, especially around the Fourth of July holiday. But handling fireworks yourself is dangerous and not recommended.

Whether you're headed to a large fireworks display or a small gathering of friends/neighbors, you should continue to wear a face mask, practice social distancing and frequently wash your hands.

Fireworks were involved in an estimated 9,100 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2018, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most burns are caused by fireworks affect the fingers and hands, and result in first- and second-degree burns.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following advice on enjoying fireworks safely:

  • Never allow children to handle fireworks.
  • Never re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited properly.
  • Keep a garden hose or bucket of water handy in case of fire.
  • Light fireworks one at a time.

This story is one in a series about navigating everyday life during COVID-19. Find the others here. Got a question, email: [email protected].