So you wanna go to the beach during COVID-19. Cool, great, seems like it should be fine. Unless, of course, you live somewhere like L.A., where you were previously only allowed to go to the beach so long as you want to park your car, walk straight into the ocean and walk straight back to your car still soaking wet when you’re done. In practice, plenty of people managed to post up with some blankets and an umbrella for hours on end without trouble, but the rules technically forbid this.
While the rules in L.A. have lessened slightly to allow for sunbathing, beach-related measures are being enforced elsewhere, too. In South Korea, officials recently banned the practice of eating and drinking on the beaches at night, specifically to curb a practice of consuming fried chicken and beers after sunset. So, clearly, beaching is a complicated issue globally.
But weird rules aside, how can we actually enjoy some wholesome sun ‘n’ fun without, y’know, contributing to a pandemic?
The Problem With Beaching It
Every rule about going to the beach is actually a measure of crowd control. Sitting on the beach isn’t going to spread COVID, nor is eating fried chicken on the beach at night. What will contribute to COVID, though, is if everyone does these things together. As a public outdoor space, the beach seems relatively safe, and it ultimately is. Thing is, people get too comfortable. They think that because they’re outdoors, enjoying the ocean breeze, that COVID can’t spread. They invite their pals, their extended family, and everyone gathers on beach towels and shares some fruit salad and has a grand time. Maybe they even enjoy some alcohol. Next thing you know, everyone is less than six feet apart, dispersing their respiratory molecules and giving each other coronavirus.
In short, beaches are only risky for transmitting disease if you make them risky, and gathering with lots of other people is a surefire way to do that.
The Key to Beaching It
With that in mind, the safest way to enjoy the beach is with the people you already live with. It might seem fun to invite your friends you haven’t seen in awhile, but everyone else probably has had the same idea. If beaches become too crowded and there’s not enough room for everyone to stay six feet apart, then it’s just not safe. Sorry, but you’ve gotta stick within your usual quarantine bubble. The CDC lists the following as the “lowest risk” scenario when it comes to using public beaches: “Staff and beach visitors stay at least 6 feet away from people they don’t live with. Staff and beach visitors do not share food, equipment, toys or supplies with people they don’t live with.” The closer you get and the more items you share, the higher the risk becomes.
The Other Safety Considerations
As the CDC states, the stuff you bring to the beach can be just as essential as the people you go with. Bring your own stuff, and drive your own car. If you absolutely insist upon meeting up with other people and doing some type of social-distancing beach rendezvous, at least make sure you’re not touching the same objects. This means bringing your own drinks, snacks, towels, toys and sunscreen. You’ll want to be as self-reliant as possible, planning the trip so that you don’t have to make any extra stops or purchases. Water and sunscreen are probably the most important things to bring. Taking the extra precautions to avoid COVID-19 is essentially pointless if you end up in the hospital dehydrated and sunburnt.
The Alcohol Issue
Drinking on the beach, while largely illegal, is one of God’s gifts to humankind. There’s simply nothing better than drinking a cold beer with lime in the hot sand, honestly. You might be able to safely enjoy a beer or two at the beach, but you have to know your limits. Someone’s gotta be designated driver, since taking an Uber or public transit makes the whole trip much riskier. Alcohol will also make you need to pee more, but that’s not a big deal since the ocean is right there. Pee in the ocean as much as you’d like. Just remember, drink water, re-apply sunscreen and don’t end up in the hospital. Also, please don’t start drowning or anything like that. It’s kind of hard to stay six feet apart from a lifeguard when they’re trying to give you mouth-to-mouth.
The Bottom Line
Going to the beach is perfectly safe and fine, so long as you follow the regular rules you’ve been using to get through the pandemic. As you sunbathe with a light buzz and blissfully stare off into the ocean waves, it can be easy to forget that the U.S. continues to break its records for new coronavirus cases day after day. It might be just fine for you to forget that for a couple hours, or you might get tricked into the sense of normalcy and complacency that’s causing more and more people to get sick. You can still enjoy your summer and go to the beach. Just use your brain.