Speed Reads

Coronavirus news you can use

What's safe to do in the summer of coronavirus?

Memorial Day is always kind of an odd holiday to mark the unofficial start of summer, and that was especially true this year. Some people sheltered at home and others crowded in pools, while the nation collectively mourned the nearly 100,000 Americans who died from COVID-19 — more than the U.S. dead in every war from Vietnam onward combined, The Washington Post notes. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn tweeted Sunday a reminder that "the coronavirus is not yet contained" and "it is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community."

Hahn highlighted "social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks," but what activities are safe during a pandemic where a dangerous, contagious virus spreads by saliva droplets passed from one person to another? NPR's Morning Edition graded 14 options, based on advice from infectious disease and public health experts. Some of their guidance was intuitive: camping is generally low-risk while crowding into a bar is high-risk. But there were some surprises, too.

Going to a public pool or beach, renting a vacation house with another trusted family, and letting friends use your bathroom were all deemed relatively low-risk, while using a public restroom and staying at a hotel were judged low to medium risk, and going to an indoor religious service, getting a hair cut, and eating indoors at a restaurant were high or medium-high on the risk scale. As a general rule of thumb, "always choose outdoors over indoor, always choose masking over not masking, and always choose more space for fewer people over a smaller space," epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon tells NPR News.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance on traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic is a little more conservative, highlighting some risks from camping — you are farther from a hospital and can still share bathrooms and picnic areas with potentially infectious people — and reminding everyone that not all state and national parks will be open, and some won't have functioning bathrooms. But "in many areas, people can visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and vitamin D, stay active, and safely connect with others," CDC adds, noting that safe usually means keeping a distance of six feet from others.