Is It Safe to Go to the Beach During COVID-19?

Since March, we’ve stayed close to home in an effort to stay safe during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. But as states begin to reopen and the beach beckons, you and your loved ones may be ready to dip your toes in the sand and ride the waves. The question is, how do you decide whether it’s safe?

The experts say: Outdoor activities are preferable to indoor ones because fresh air dilutes the virus. But when it comes to the beach, you need to be sure to maintain physical distance in and out of the water, so try to find a beach that is not densely populated.

“Beaches can get really crowded, so if you want to enjoy it while sitting on a blanket or chair, make sure you have a good distance from others and possibly wear your mask if it is crowded,” says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention.

Factors to consider:

–  Who are you with at the beach? It’s best to stick to people in your household, and to avoid crowded areas on the beach.

– How is the beach being regulated? Determine the beach’s safety protocol so you can follow the rules. Some beaches are restricting the number of people who have access at one time.

How to stay safe:

In addition to physical distancing and wearing a mask when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others, avoid sharing equipment such as beach chairs. Shared beach chairs may not be disinfected between users. If you are going to use a shared chair, bring your own disinfectant wipes to clean it before you sit.

Wear a mask if you are in a shared indoor space such as a hotel lobby. If you need to use the public bathroom, try to get in and out as quickly as possible, wear a mask and be sure to wash your hands as soon as you get home.

Avoid destinations that have an especially high COVID-19 rate or have seen a recent spike in cases, and if you are considered high-risk, such as being older than 65 or immunocompromised, consult your doctor before heading out.

Carry hand sanitizer for when you can’t practice frequent hand-washing and pack enough masks so that you can always have one at the ready—especially if one gets wet. But don’t wear a mask in the water. A wet mask can be dangerous if it hinders your breathing.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website and the UNC Health COVID-19 Resources page, and follow UNC Health on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.