Houston’s 4th of July celebrations may look a little bit different for 2020. While we are encouraged to keep up important social distancing and continue to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, we understand families still want to celebrate America’s birthday. Memorial Hermann would like to help ensure those celebrations can take place safely and that everyone is taking the necessary steps to prevent health risks to themselves and those around them.
“We realize people have been itching to get out of their homes – we all feel like we have been trapped for months and want to get some sunshine and play. But there are ways to socialize safely,” says Matt Harting, MD, pediatric trauma surgeon and medical director of ECMO at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Dr. Harting answered some frequently asked questions on how to make sure you and your family can celebrate safely this weekend.
Q: Is it safe to go to the beach if we’re not near anyone other than our immediate family members?
A: Visiting a beach around a big group or gathering is not helpful or properly socially distanced. Going to the beach with your immediate family and finding a beach that is isolated is key to prevent unsafe disease transmission.
Q: Is it okay to gather with neighbors or family members if we are doing so outside? If we gather with friends, should we all wear masks?
A: We know that prolonged, close interactions without a mask dramatically increases the risk disease transmission. The close conversation without a mask is extremely. If everyone follows the CDC’s recommendations on wearing a mask and keeping six feet apart from each other, that is the best and safest option to follow.
Q: Is the recommendation that gatherings still stay under 10 people?
A: Yes, if you decide to gather, the lower number of people the better, for your safety and their safety. Stay spread out. Sit in lawn chairs that are all spread out from each other. Wear your mask. Large gatherings are not recommended.
Q: Is it safe to put out shared appetizers if we have people come over to our house?
A: Surfaces people are touching are absolutely a way that COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. Sharing food or appetizers could increase the risk of disease transmission. Having separate servings is a safer option.
Q: How risky is it to visit a community pool?
A: The more closed in you are in a small space, the more chance droplets from others might stay in the air and be transmitted to you and increases your risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Q: How risky is it to picnic in a public park? Should we wear masks when we’re sitting down, not close to other people?
A: If it is just your immediate family who you live with in your home going to a picnic or sharing a meal outdoors and everyone is in good health, it is very low risk of disease transmission to share a meal while isolated.
Q: If my family is going on a road trip, is it safe to use public restrooms while on the road?
A: Any time we go anywhere we touch our hands on things and make contact, often unknowingly, with our surroundings. Stop and remember to wash your hands, and also take hand sanitizer with you. Before you get back in your car and touch anything, wash your hands and of course wear your mask at all times. Also, minimize the time you spend in public places.
Q: If my family chooses to eat out for the holiday, what precautions should we take? What precautions should we be looking for the restaurant to take?
A: Taking your food to go is a safe option because it minimizes your exposure. If you eat out at a restaurant, wash your hands, keep your mask on when you are not eating and make sure there is plenty of space between you and other diners.
Q: Although many fireworks shows are canceled, how can someone remain safe if they decide to attend a show?
A: If you can enjoy the fireworks away from others that is the safest option. The more people that are around, the more of a risk you run of exposing yourself and your family to other people.
Q: If one of my family members gets injured over the weekend, is it safe to seek treatment and where should we go?
A: At Memorial Hermann, we take extreme precautions to protect our staff, you and your family by taking temperature checks at the door and offering a protective mask for all who enter our facilities. Do not avoid seeking medical treatment for fear of exposure. Talk to your doctor first to decide how to handle minor injuries. For any life threatening emergencies, call 911 immediately.