How to Enjoy These 10 Summer Activities While Keeping Your COVID-19 Risk Low

summer travel covid

Verywell Health / Brianna Gilmartin

Key Takeaways

  • Establishing a rigid risk level for any given activity can be difficult because many factors are at play, but outdoor recreation is generally safer than indoor activities.
  • For any given activity, it’s necessary to consider the ventilation of the venue, the number of people, and the ability to wear a mask or maintain physical distance. 
  • Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is a preventive measure that is within your control.

With summer just around the corner, many people are excited to bask in the sun and enjoy group activities. However, COVID-19 is still a risk.

Although infection risk is never zero, it can be minimized as much as possible. Therefore, it helps to plan ahead and determine which summer activities are most feasible based on your individual risk tolerance.

Summer Activities Based on COVID-19 Risk

Levels of community transmission and vaccination rates in an area may help individuals assess the risk of COVID-19. However, when it comes to large-scale events like music festivals, people often come from different cities or states, which makes it more difficult to gauge infection risk.

Here are various activities you can do this summer and their relative risk:

Indoor Dining

The risk of indoor dining can depend on how far you are from others and the ventilation in the restaurant, Amanda M. Valyko, MPH, CIC, FAPIC, director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Michigan Medicine, told Verywell.

In general, indoor dining is typically the riskiest activity—even compared to other indoor gatherings—because there’s no way to wear masks while eating.

Customers can reduce the risk by sitting on outdoor patios or avoiding crowded places, Valyko added. With adequate distancing, eating outdoors at a restaurant can be medium-risk. 

Indoor Concerts or Festivals

When it comes to standing concerts, people do not usually stay in fixed positions and are often in close proximity to each other, which increases the risk of getting COVID-19.

“Attending an indoor concert or festival is a higher-risk activity,” Christopher Scuderi, DO, a family physician at the University of Florida Health in Jacksonville, told Verywell. “Indoor concerts and activities have a higher risk of exposure to COVID. There have been increased community COVID-19 cases after some larger indoor concerts over the past year.”

If the venue is indoors and crowded, requiring proof of vaccination can lower the risk, but not eliminate it completely, Iahn Gonsenhauser, MD, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Verywell.

Indoor Weddings

In many instances, the wedding ceremony is held inside a church, and then reception and dinner are held in the second venue of choice.

Weddings are high-risk because there are typically lots of close contact with other guests, Valyko said. Nowadays, there are face masks that match wedding attire, potentially reducing the risk of infection.

The risk would significantly differ if both the ceremony and reception were to be held outdoors with physical distancing, or if it’s a mix of indoor and outdoor venues.

“If there are high community infection rates, consider participating in the outdoor-only parts of a wedding, especially if you are at elevated risk of complications from COVID-19,” Scuderi said.

Overall, physical distancing, good ventilation, and a limited number of guests are key to a safe wedding. 

Outdoor Concerts or Festivals

Although outdoor events have good air circulation, the number of people must always be considered. An outdoor concert or music festival can often get crowded to a point where it’s hard to maintain social distance.

“A crowded outdoor environment is probably higher risk than a sparsely populated indoor environment,” Gonsenhauser said.

A 2022 study published in The Lancet Regional HealthEurope found that the COVID-19 incidence among attendees to two music outdoor festivals was twice as high as that of a control group during the peak of community transmission. 

Maintaining social distance in crowded, outdoor events can still help in minimizing the risk of infection.

Visiting a Museum

Visiting a museum is a medium- to low-risk activity, as long as it’s not too crowded, Valyko said. Masking would greatly reduce the risk, she added.

Some museums still have COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place. For instance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a controlled visitor capacity and enforces masking and physical distancing. For others, infection precautions are only strongly recommended.

The Smithsonian, which operates 19 museums, recommends planning visits during weekdays because their museums get crowded during holidays and weekends.

Sporting Events

The infection risk of attending sporting events depends on the venue and how crowded it is, Valyko said. It’s relatively low risk if people are able to keep their distance from others, but about medium-risk if it’s crowded, she added.

A 2021 study published in Scientific Reports found that social distancing in a professional sports event is not always possible, but the rate of infection can be reduced significantly by wearing a face mask. In the particular sporting event that the researchers studied, there were no recorded infections among people who continuously wore high-quality masks that are category KN95 or higher.

Moreover, a 2021 preprint study posted at DepositOnce evaluated the risk of various environments and estimated that going to a sports hall with 50% occupancy is much safer than a gym and an indoor swimming pool at 30% and 100% occupancy respectively. 

Being a spectator at a sporting event is different than being a participant. Playing high- or full-contact sports, such as basketball or football, is a high-risk activity. 

Visiting an Amusement Park

Going to amusement parks is generally a medium-risk activity. The COVID-19 risk depends on crowding and ventilation, experts said. Infection risk would be lowest at an outdoor park that isn’t very crowded, Scuderi said. 

Disneyland Resort in California requires guests to obtain a reservation in advance for park entry, which is still limited and subject to availability. Face coverings are “strongly recommended” for indoor venues and enclosed transportation. For Universal Orlando Resort, masking is not required for fully vaccinated guests, while unvaccinated guests are encouraged to wear face coverings at all indoor rides, shows, and queues.

“Waiting in lines in close proximity to others is medium-risk,” Valyko said. “Clean hands often with sanitizer after touching surfaces on rides.”

Swimming in an Outdoor Public Pool

“The COVID virus does not spread well in water, making swimming a safer activity, especially in outdoor pools,” Scuderi said. 

Water or swimming does not transmit SARS-CoV-2. A 2021 study published in BMC Infectious Diseases reported that there isn’t enough evidence on the association of COVID-19 transmission with swimming-related activities. 

However, the virus may spread after close contact with an infected person, so the risk can increase as the pool gets more crowded. Therefore, appropriate distancing is necessary.

The infection risk can be higher in indoor public pools where ventilation is poorer. An indoor swimming pool with 100% occupancy without masking is as risky as a restaurant with 50% occupancy, according to the aforementioned 2021 preprint study.

Going to the Beach

Swimming on the beach can be less risky than swimming in a public pool since the area is a much larger space, but the risk still depends on how crowded the place is.

“The COVID-19 risk is, again, lower with going to the beach as it is a well-ventilated, outdoor activity,” Scuderi said. “However, the COVID-19 risk will increase some as the beach gets more crowded. Keeping space from other beachgoers is your best protection outdoors.”

If a beach is really crowded to the point that coming in close contact with other people becomes inevitable, the risk will be much higher.

Camping or Hiking

According to the American Hiking Society, occasionally walking, running, or hiking past someone going the opposite direction doesn’t have a very high risk of COVID-19 transmission, even if the distance between you closes briefly.

“The COVID-19 risk is less while doing outside activities,” Scuderi said. “Camping and hiking are lower-risk activities, especially if you are around a limited number of people.”  

If popular national parks or trails have become crowded and overwhelmed with visitors, it may be best to reschedule for another time.

What This Means For You

The risk of infection often depends on crowding and ventilation, therefore it’s difficult to establish a rigid safety level for any given activity. In general, you should ensure good ventilation in any location, avoid crowded places, and stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination.

There Are Plenty of Factors to Consider This Summer

You can discuss with your family physician about your risk of developing severe disease from COVID-19, strategies to minimize infection risk, level of community transmission, and current treatment options, Scuderi said.

“This summer, we will be continuing to learn to live with COVID-19,” he added. “If there is a wave in your area, it can increase the risk of being infected, and [it] ought to be part of the decision process for the activities you decide to participate in based on the risk level around the activity and your overall health.”

In all situations of potential exposure, the best thing anyone can do to protect themselves is to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination, Gonsenhauser said.

“No matter what venue you are visiting, crowd density, community caseload, and vaccination status of those around you are the specific details to focus on if you want to lower your risk,” he added. “The lowest risk environment is still outdoors, open-air, and not in tight crowds, but it is the crowd and the location that have to be considered together.”

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or confirmed infection, it’s best to stay at home to recover. Individuals with non-severe COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe disease and hospitalization are strongly recommended to get the antiviral Paxlovid, which can significantly reduce the risk when taken early on in the course of the disease.

“We are entering the beginning of the endemic phase of COVID,” Gonsenhauser said. “Our goal should be to do everything we can to avoid that infection putting us in the hospital or the ICU. That means vaccination and having a primary care physician that can help you access therapeutic medications early in the infection process.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.