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 healthyheadlines@novanthealth.org.

Many North Carolinians are starting to wonder if it's safe to plan a beach vacation this year. 

Dr. Ashley Perrott at Novant health Salem Family Medicine_web
Dr. Ashley Perrott

We asked Dr. Ashley Perrott at Novant Health Salem Family Medicine to share some advice as we begin to make plans this summer. 

Before you pack your bags

Perrott recommends that families should take into account COVID-19 maps to better assess the risk or prevalence of the virus in different areas as they choose their vacation destination. 

“We are all looking forward to driving to our beaches and mountains again,” Perrott said. “But we have to be aware of the fact that if we are not collectively careful, we could easily experience a resurgence of COVID-19.”

To help slow the spread, Governor Roy Cooper issued a mandatory statewide face-covering requirement on June 26. Perrott recommends that beachgoers wear a mask when in public and emphasized the importance of social distancing and frequent handwashing. 

She also advises to avoid public bathrooms or bathhouses. “I think your best bet is just to stay sandy and take a shower at home,” she said.

Sleeping and shopping

Another long-standing summer tradition is to rent a beach house with your entire family. But that process should look different this year as well, including more cleaning and social distancing around the dinner table.

“Families that don’t live together shouldn’t spend time together in close quarters,” Perrott said. “And for those family members over the age of 65, or for those that are sick with other medical conditions, it would not be advisable to congregate in groups of 10 or more.”

On the other hand, Perrott says that things like grocery shopping and picking up food from restaurants are still relatively safe activities.

“You should continue to wear a mask and social distance in the grocery store, but there is simply not enough data right now to suggest you need to start shopping with gloves on or wiping down your produce,” she said. “And as for eating out, you have to remember that even before COVID-19, these restaurants all had to be certified by the health department and in most cases they are continuing to take every precaution to stay safe and open today."

Public parks

For those families that just want to get outside, Perrott says greenways are fine with adequate social distancing, but playgrounds are still off limits.

“I think for the most part our local parks have done a nice job of closing down,” she said. “Playgrounds are certainly a place where germs can live and I would caution against letting your children get on a slide or jungle gym anytime soon.”

This story is one in a series about navigating everyday life during COVID-19. Find the others here. Got a question, email: healthyheadlines@novanthealth.org.