With summer around the ­­corner, there are lots of questions on how to take advantage of the long, warm days safely.

Amir Mohareb, MD, of the Infectious Diseases Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, gives tips on how to enjoy summertime fun while reducing your risk for COVID-19.

Q: What are some of the most important precautions to remain safe from COVID-19 this summer?

A: Even though we have made great achievements against COVID-19, the virus is still in our communities and many people continue to get sick from COVID-19. You can reduce your risk this summer by taking the following measures:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and ask your friends/ family to be vaccinated as well, if they have not yet done so
  • Wear high quality masks, such as N95 and KN95 masks, when indoors in public settings, and in some outdoor settings where physical distancing is difficult
  • Practice hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (coughing or sneezing into your elbow)
  • Stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • Have at-home COVID-19 tests available when you travel and use them if you are having symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches) or if you were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • Carry adequate supplies of soap, water and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Limit exposure to large crowds as much as possible, particularly in indoor settings

Q: Is swimming (in a pool or at the beach) safe?

A: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread through swimming pools, beach water or splash pads. Over the past two years, we have learned that COVID-19 is less likely to spread in outdoor settings, especially when people are spread far apart.

Q: If going to the beach, is wearing a face mask or using a beach tent recommended?

A: Being in a wide open, well-lit and well-ventilated space outside with a low density of other people carries a low risk of transmission. However, some areas near beaches (e.g., public transit, bathrooms and restaurants) frequently get crowded and the risk of acquiring COVID-19 rises as more people relax physical-distancing interventions. In these settings, I would still recommend wearing a mask and trying to maintain physical distancing.

Q: What types of sports are safest for children and youth to participate? 

A: The way sports are played, and the way equipment is shared can influence the spread of COVID-19 among players. The American Academy of Pediatrics has an informative web page devoted to providing guidance safely engaging in sports and physical activity. In general:

  • Outdoor activities are lower risk than indoor activities
  • Activities with a wide separation between players (e.g., tennis) are lower risk than close-contact activities
  • Coaches, parents and supervisors should encourage anyone feeling sick or symptoms compatible with COVID-19 to defer playing team and close-contact sports until they can get tested or evaluated

Q: What are other important considerations in staying safe during summer activities?

A: There are many uncertainties regarding the future of the COVID-19 outbreak. While our “return to normal” activities is welcome in many respects, it does increase the risk of virus transmission in our communities. Unfortunately, many of the policies that have protected our most vulnerable friends, family members and neighbors have been “relaxed” or completely eliminated. We can all take some simple measures to protect ourselves and protect our community:

  • Get vaccinated, according to CDC recommendations. Many people who are eligible for a third or fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (“booster”) still have not received it
  • Wear high-quality masks, such as N95 and KN95 masks, in indoor settings (offices, stores, malls, public buildings), even if you are not mandated to do so
  • Always wear a high-quality mask when on public transportation, including trains, planes, buses, taxis or rideshares, even if you are not mandated to do so. This protects you and it protects those around you
  • Avoid indoor dining in public spaces when dining outdoors is possible

Q: Should I be testing myself for COVID-19?

A: Yes. Testing yourself for COVID-19 should be done frequently, especially for people who have a variety of exposures, because it helps keep you and your community safe. Some of the times that you should consider testing:

Q: What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

A: There are several therapies available for COVID-19 for people who are at high risk of developing severe disease. Treatments should be accessed by anyone who is at least 65 years old or who has an underlying condition such as heart, lung, liver, kidney disease, diabetes or whose immune system is suppressed by illness or medication.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health website includes an explanation of who is eligible and how you can be rapidly evaluated for one of these therapies: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/treatments-for-covid-19 

Even if you do not have a primary care doctor, you can be evaluated for treatment: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/free-telehealth-for-covid-19-treatment-with-paxlovid