C Force: Giving Lifeguards Their Due as Their Risks Increase
Memorial Day honors those who died in active military service for our country. The weekend leading up to it also marks the unofficial start of summer for many Americans. To say that Memorial Day weekend 2020 will go down in history as a remembrance like no other hardly covers it.
Traditional commemorations were replaced by virtual ones. Around the country, people had to think outside of the box to make sure remembrances of the sacrifices made by members of the military were observed despite the physically distant world we now live in. Many of these events also included a tribute to those who have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
Though rain kept people inside in some parts of the country, warm weather had Americans flocking to lakes, beaches and parks. While an estimate of total beach attendees around the country is not yet available, it is safe to assume it could be 1 million or more.
At the same time, different approaches by local and state governments have left many Americans bewildered about what outdoor behavior is considered safe, according to a New York Times report. "Even the simplest outdoor activities seem fraught with a thousand questions and calculations," the reports says.
After weeks of hunkering down with stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, the holiday weekend coincided with actions in 50 states that have loosened such restrictions. We now recognize the toll isolation can take, particularly for those already suffering from conditions like depression and anxiety.
But these are not the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. As reported by CNN, White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci pronounced this week that going outside was fine, "with cautious measures." Other experts are advocating for what they call a "harm-reduction approach" to social distancing. It is a concept that hinges on minimizing the negative consequences of potentially risky behaviors.
"Interviews show a growing consensus among experts that, if Americans are going to leave their homes, it's safer to be outside than in the office or the mall. With fresh air and more space between people, the risk goes down," the Times writes.
"I think going outside is important for health," said Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "We know that being outdoors is lower risk for coronavirus transmission than being indoors. On a sunny, beautiful weekend, I think going outside is indicated, but I also think there are things to do to reduce our risk."
Most research suggests you are less likely to catch or transmit the virus if you are outside, wearing a mask and keeping your distance from others. It is considered safer to be outdoors because even a light wind will quickly dilute the virus. But that does not mean that risks are gone entirely.
"Probably the biggest risk for summer water recreation is crowds," Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health reminded the Times.