Coronavirus and Beaches: Can I Safely Enjoy the Sun, Surf and Sand?

As climbing temperatures herald summer time’s return, cities and states round the United States are starting the stilted technique of reopening. In many locations, meaning an opportunity to return to the seashore. Texas state seashores have been ordered to reopen on May 1; now state seashores in Florida, Oregon and California are additionally beginning to reopen. On the East Coast, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut just lately introduced plans to reopen state seashores by the Memorial Day weekend, although with limits on capability and different measures. (Cities, counties and different municipalities might have completely different restrictions; New York City’s 14 miles of public seashores, for instance, stay closed.)

For these involved about their security throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the present consensus is that socially distant outside actions are some of the safer ways to re-engage with the world.

But no activity is going to be completely risk-free.

“The steps you take are not going to be one-size-fits-all; it depends on your individual risk tolerance,” said Dr. Adalja.

Here are five things to keep in mind when planning a beach day.

Getting there

Like most things in the time of Covid-19, rules governing beach access, use and safety change frequently and likely differ depending on your state, city and even your beach.

Start by learning the regulations of your area and your beach by accessing government websites for your city or county. And consider how far along your local area is in terms of reopening.

You should expect new rules this season. Picnicking might be allowed, or beach access may be for recreation only. Masks might be required and entries may be timed. Parking lots, public bathrooms and concession stands may or may not be open, or offer only limited access.

The varied regulations are because of the diversity of beaches across the United States and the likelihood of crowds.

“Local context matters,” Dr. Nelsen said. “The U.S. coastline is hugely varied in terms of its geography and population. You could go up to Oregon, or Northern California, and be at a beach all day alone. Urban beaches in Southern California or Miami are a different story.”

Densely crowded beaches make maintaining six feet of distance more difficult, and increase the likelihood of more sustained exposure to the virus. You may need to navigate a crowded parking lot, or take a narrow path or stairway to access the sand.

“Make an informed judgment: ‘Does it seem like the beach is on the busy side?’” Ms. Stratton said. “If you’re pulling up to a beach and the parking lot is full, our recommendation is that you find a less-populated spot.”

Professor Marr suggests vetting beaches beforehand via a webcam, if possible, to assess the crowd.

Safety at the shore

Keeping your hands clean, avoiding touching your face and, of course, maintaining at least six feet of social distance are as paramount at the beach as they are anywhere else.

“If it’s a crowded beach with people playing games, or parties mixing with other parties, there is always a risk of transmission,” said Dr. Adalja. “There will be people who think that risk is acceptable, others who don’t, especially at at-risk populations.”

Dr. Adalja agrees that being on the move is, over all, a safer proposition: “If people are running by each other, the virus can’t magically transport from one person to another,” he said, noting that the highest risk for exposure comes from spending anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes within six feet of another person.

While much about transmissibility of the coronavirus remains unclear, waterborne transmission appears to be less likely.

As for other surfaces you might encounter at the beach, such as rental beach chairs and kayaks, or even beach toys, Ms. Stratton urges caution in all regards.

“We strongly discourage sharing equipment outside of your household — throwing a Frisbee, or tossing a ball around,” she said. “Before you rent equipment, ask the question: was this item cleaned and disinfected in between uses? If not, the recommendation would be to not use equipment.”

Your own chairs should not be an immediate risk factor — assuming six feet of social distancing can be maintained — as there is no evidence pointing to easy transmission in the sand. To be safe, clean your beach equipment with household disinfectants when you return home.

“Our municipalities are going to be incredibly challenged from a budget perspective,” Ms. Stratton said. “Rather than leave trash in receptacles that are overflowing, do your part and carry it out.”

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for public restrooms include guidelines for regular cleaning and disinfection, operational toilets and well-stocked handwashing supplies. But beachgoers should check out facilities when they first arrive, to see if restrooms are clean and can allow for social distancing.

“We, of course, are recommending that municipalities and parks and recreation maintain facilities, but beachgoers should not assume that that’s the case,” Ms. Stratton of the N.R.P.A. said.

It’s always wise to bring hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, wear a mask, close the lid of the toilet when you flush, if possible, and thoroughly wash your hands.

The safest course: Keep your beach visit short enough that using public restrooms won’t be necessary — use the bathroom, and change into your swimsuit, before you leave home.

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