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Risk Vs. Reward:

COVID-19 Brings Questions of How to Have Fun and Stay Safe This Summer

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Special to The Union
The CDC says that small outdoor gatherings are safe for people who are fully vaccinated. For the unvaccinated, even small gatherings can present some COVID-19 risk, however that risk can be reduced by maintaining six feet of distance, staying outdoors, and limiting the gathering to one other family.

As communities and businesses reopen and restrictions are lifted, we are all looking for ways to safely resume activities. However, many of us are also wondering exactly what we can and can’t do when it comes to our health and safety. The answer to that question is complicated and depends greatly on whether you have chosen to vaccinate or not.

The Centers for Disease Control point out that, even with vaccination, there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection and that when trying to determine what’s safest, we should consider the potential risks and rewards of any activity or outing.

The risk of an activity depends on many factors, including whether COVID-19 is currently spreading in the community you are in or planning to visit.



In addition, the CDC says as we make summer plans, we should know that: Interacting with more people raises your risk. Being in a group with people who aren’t social distancing or wearing masks increases your risk. Engaging with new people (especially those who don’t live with you) raises your risk. Some people have the virus and don’t have any symptoms, and it is not yet known how often people without symptoms can transmit the virus to others.

The CDC also urges us to consider the length of time we will be around others (more time equals more exposure) as well as the proximity (less than six feet of space between people increases risk).



The one factor that can significantly reduce your risk in all situations: vaccination.

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. Remember – federal law requires that masks are worn by everyone (vaccinated or not), at all times while inside airports and on airplanes.

Of course, as we see an increase in the spread of COVID-19 variants, it is becoming clear that there is at least some risk for what is known as “breakthrough infections” – infections affecting people who have been previously vaccinated. While those people typically experience minimal symptoms, there is still some risk of illness and the ability to spread the virus.

While the CDC considers any outdoor activity to be very low risk for the vaccinated, they recommend that those who are not vaccinated stick with small group gatherings when outdoors, avoiding larger crowds, including at sporting events, festivals, parades or concerts. The CDC also says eating outdoors at restaurants with unvaccinated friends poses an increased risk for those who have not been vaccinated.

When it comes to indoor activities, the unvaccinated are at some risk for most activities, including visiting a hair salon or barber, attending small parties, or visiting a shopping center or museum. Activities like full-capacity worship services, seeing a movie in a theater, and eating indoors at a restaurant are all high-risk activities for the unvaccinated and should be considered carefully.

If you decide to attend large public events, the CDC recommends that you continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions. For the vaccinated, that may include wearing a mask when in large crowds. For the unvaccinated, that should include wearing a mask at all times when indoors and when in close proximity to others outdoors.

For families with young children, the analysis of risk versus reward when considering summertime activities can be very complicated. Given that children under the age of 12 are not yet able to receive the vaccine, many parents are finding themselves vaccinated while their young children are not.

In those cases, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated children continue to follow all the same safety protocols that are recommended for anyone who is not vaccinated: Wear a mask when in public, keep six feet space from others, and practice good hygiene.

Vaccinated parents may want to consider continuing to wear a mask themselves to help their kids be compliant.

Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC recommends we all continue to practice good hygiene – including frequent handwashing, disinfecting common surfaces frequently, and keeping hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes on hand at all times.

For more information, including the most recent guidelines, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.


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