The scene Aug. 1 in Ocean City, N.J.: While experts say the risk of catching Covid-19 at the beach is small, they offer precautions to think about taking. PHOTO: GABBY JONES/BLOOMBERG NEWS
How to Reduce Coronavirus Risk on the Beach
| le 11 August 2020
Sun and sea breezes lower your chances of getting Covid-19—unless you’re in a crowded beachside bar
By Jason Douglas – The Wall Street Journal
Worried about catching the new coronavirus at the beach this summer? Don’t be, scientists say—though it might be best to bring a cooler and skip the crowded beachfront bar.
With summer vacations in full swing after months of lockdown, public-health authorities from California and Florida to Spain and the South of France are reporting a pickup in cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Photos of crowded beaches triggered envy for some, worry for others, starting soon after states such as Florida lifted Phase 1 beach restrictions in May.
California and Florida each have reported around 50,000 new cases in the past seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Europe, young people letting loose are fueling a surge in coronavirus infections that are endangering hard-won gains against the pandemic.
Daily cases in Spain are more than twice the level of a month ago, and in France they are up 60%, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Some governments are warning against holidays in badly affected regions; others are testing incoming vacationers for the virus or requesting that returnees isolate at home for a week or more.
But the beach probably isn’t where most new transmission is occurring, disease experts say. The principal way the new coronavirus spreads from person to person is through droplets of virus-laden moisture that people exhale when they talk, laugh and sneeze. Some researchers suspect finer aerosol particles that hang in the air also play a significant role.
The droplets spread more easily indoors, especially where people are in close contact, talking loudly and breathing heavily. Think of a favorite beachside club or bar, where partygoers are in proximity, shouting at each other over the music—and with limited ventilation.
Yet while the risk of catching the virus outdoors is small, it isn’t zero. Experts suggest a few extra precautions for beachgoers to consider.
Perhaps the most important is deciding where to go in the first place. The risk is higher where the coronavirus is generally more prevalent, and lower where there are fewer daily cases.
Maintain social-distances as far as possible. If the beach you have picked is crowded, maybe try another one. Travel by foot, bike or car, and give public transport a pass. Bring a picnic.
If you are meeting up with friends you haven’t seen in a while, keep in mind that the virus can spread from person to person when there’s close conversation or heated argument.
If you are close enough to smell garlic on someone’s breath, you are too close, said Julian Tang, a physician and associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, England. Save the funny anecdote for a phone call. If one of the five friends laughing in your face has coronavirus, “you’re the one that’s the butt of the joke,” he said.
What about when it’s time to take a dip? Won’t weaving your way from blanket to ocean bring you into too-close contact with people outside your carefully constructed bubble?
If so, wear a mask. Buddy up, so your buddy can swim first while you hold both masks, then swap, said Thomas Russo, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo. And wear a mask and wash your hands when using the beach bathrooms.
“Getting this virus is all about close interactions over time, and interactions without masks,” Prof. Russo said.
On a beach, the droplets have much less chance traveling from one beach blanket to another. The sheer volume of air readily dilutes viral particles. The welcome breeze scudding in off the sea quickly disperses airborne pathogens. And when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun, viruses and other bugs tend not to survive very long.
“The environmental conditions of sun, breeze and dryish air mitigate against virus survival,” said Keith Neal, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, England.