12 Things You Shouldn’t Do at Reopened Beaches
When it comes to going to the beach this summer, it's not all or nothing. You certainly can hit the beach—as long as you take steps to keep yourself and others safe and limit the spread of the virus.
Beach safety has a new name
At the beginning of the pandemic, photos and videos of crowded beaches were everywhere, and the people in them became utter pariahs. A man showed up to Florida beaches in a Grim Reaper costume to send their occupants a less-than-subtle message. Beachgoing was seen as the ultimate act of callousness in the face of a pandemic.
Now, though, it’s the height of summer and research has shown that the coronavirus spreads far more easily indoors than outdoors. Not to mention, it’s hot. In places like New York City, beaches are a needed outlet for many people, especially people in less affluent areas, to get out of stifling hot apartments and homes.
So, especially if you live in a state where the virus curve is more or less flat, you might be considering going to the beach again. But you should absolutely be as careful as possible. Beaches are still one of the places you’re most likely to catch coronavirus, especially if you ignore or downplay the risk and treat it like a “normal” beach trip. Here are the things you should avoid doing while you’re soaking up the sun.
This is probably the most important rule to follow; it’s when hordes of people are packed on top of one another that the virus spreads most easily. Try to avoid popular beaches that you know will likely be packed, and choose a spot that’s a reasonable distance from other guests. Person-to-person transmission is still the most common way the coronavirus spreads. Yes, beaches can (and often do) get crowded, but try your hardest to stay six or more feet away from anyone not in your household. Here’s when it could be safe to see older relatives and other family members again.
Go at a peak time
Here’s another simple way to avoid rubbing elbows with massive crowds. You know beaches are going to be at their most crowded in the middle of the day, so maybe avoid going then. Lee Newcombe, the Ford Explorer Marketing Manager, even suggests putting a twist on your traditional beach trip and heading there in the evening instead. “A nighttime beach movie date is just another great way to enjoy the beach while keeping safe,” she suggests. “You won’t even need to worry about getting sand everywhere!” (Of course, you’ll need to make sure your beach will be open to the public in the evening.) Check out our guide to a backyard movie theater if this is the route you choose to go. And Newcombe even provides a handy graphic for setting up a do-it-yourself beach drive-in movie.
And, yes, it often is more plausible (and more desirable) to make a full day of your beach trip. If you’re planning on doing that, aim to go on a day when it might not be as crowded, like in the middle of the week.
Forget your mask
No, a cute bathing suit and a face covering is not the best-looking combo. But for the time being, it’s just something you’ll have to grin and bear. (Or make whatever facial expression you want—no one can see it!) Yes, masks can be uncomfortable, especially in the heat, but keeping it on as much as possible is the safest and most responsible thing to do—and you should absolutely have it on if you’re closer than six feet to someone not from your household. As the CDC puts it, “Face coverings should be worn when feasible and are most essential at times when social distancing is difficult.” The CDC even recommends bringing an extra mask in case your primary one gets dirty or wet. Find out how much longer we’ll need to wear masks.
Wear your mask in the water
Yes, this seems to go against everything we last said—but the CDC advises beachgoers to keep their masks off while swimming. That’s because if it gets wet—which seems pretty much inevitable—it’s pretty much unwearable, not to mention much more difficult to breathe through. So when you go to take a dip, keep your mask on shore—which, yes, “means it is particularly important to maintain social distancing in the water,” per the CDC.
Invite everyone you know
We know how tempting it is right now to get lots of friends, and friends of friends, together for the first time in months and try to recapture some semblance of normal summer. But, for the sake of front-line workers, people in vulnerable communities, and, well, yourself, keep your beach group as small as possible. The CDC and other health experts can’t stress it enough—it’s when people gather in crowds that this virus has a field day. Try to stick to people within your household, or keep your distance if you’re going with someone outside your household. And the CDC also recommends sharing a vehicle only with people from your household. Find out which beaches travelers can’t wait to return to.
Every state, city, and locality is going to have different guidelines for going to the beach. Before you go, take a moment to research the directives at the place you’re going. What times will the beach be open to the public? What’s the maximum number of people allowed in a single group? Are you allowed to sit and relax, or do you have to be doing an activity? Your beach trip won’t be fun if you get busted for breaking rules. You’ll especially want to take care, or even hold off on your beach visit, if you live in one of the states where coronavirus is spiking again.
Skip hand hygiene
Sinks with soap and water might not be as accessible at the beach as they are when you’re confined to your home. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep your hands clean! If you’re not able to easily wash your hands, keep hand sanitizer on hand (literally) and use it frequently. But the CDC stresses that if your hands are already dirty, hand sanitizer won’t be as effective. So make sure to wipe any sand or sunscreen off your hands thoroughly before you sanitize. And absolutely make sure to sanitize (or wash!) your hands before you eat, especially if you’re eating with your hands picnic style. As if all that weren’t enough, watch out for these potentially toxic hand sanitizers.
Linger around shops
Many beach towns boast lots of great options for shopping and restaurants nearby—but now may not be the time to explore those. It’ll likely be just as challenging, if not more, to keep a safe distance from people in these areas as on the beaches themselves. Especially avoid going indoors, where the virus can spread more easily. Consider packing your own food rather than sitting down at a restaurant or crowding a takeout counter, too. Learn the things you shouldn’t do at reopened retail stores.
Share food (and other things)
Yes, it’s appropriate to be a little selfish right now. Now is not the time to be passing around bags of chips or fruit salads. Do your best to bring (or purchase) food specifically for yourself (or your household) and stick to it. You should also be especially careful if you’re using or renting equipment. Certainly don’t share any equipment that comes into close contact with your face, like snorkels or goggles. If you must rent an umbrella, a chair, a paddleboard, or any other equipment, wipe them down and sanitize them thoroughly. Here’s the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing.
Having a drink on the beach is one of the epitomes of summer. (Just think of all the commercials that make it seem like the apex of life.) But, as you probably already know, drinking can make you more likely to engage in risky behavior—and risky behavior is the opposite of what we need right now. “Once you start drinking, it is easy to say, ‘Hey, I’m just going to go say hi to my friend real quick, I don’t need this mask, I can hug my buddy,'” explained NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres. So drink responsibly, if you do it at all. Find out some things you shouldn’t do at reopened restaurants, too.
Cram the bath houses
If you’ve taken lots of beach trips, you know how hectic areas like bath houses can get. While there should be rules, signs, or even distance markers for the purpose of enforcing safety, it’s ultimately up to the visitors to be smart and stay safe. Have your party go into a bath house one person at a time and try to wait until it’s less crowded. And, of course, wear your mask and stay distant from people as much as possible.
Leave things behind
If we’re getting technical, this is something you shouldn’t do, pandemic or no. “Everything from trash to blankets to toys should leave when you do,” Newcombe says. “Leaving them behind can not only be harmful to the environment but will also spoil the natural beauty of the place for the next person there.” But this is just as relevant now—if not more. Raise your hand if you’ve seen a discarded mask (or ten) on the ground in a public place during the pandemic. Yeah, us too. Take your masks (and all of your other trash) with you! The last thing you want to do as a beachgoer right now is be that person who makes more work for staffers. Next, check out some ways to safely get away this summer.
- CNN: “A lawyer dressed as the Grim Reaper is haunting Florida beaches to protest their reopening”
- medRxiv: “Closed environments facilitate secondary transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)”
- The New York Times: “Summer Is Coming. Don’t Count on N.Y.C.’s Beaches for Relief.”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Visiting Beaches and Pools”
- CDC: “Considerations for Public Beaches”
- Today: “No sunbathing or sand castles? What to know before you go to the beach”