Keeping COVID-19 at bay

By Shauna Krawchuk
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, June 29, 2020

multi-family picnic_small

As you look for ways to make the most of another beautiful Manitoba summer, the last thing you want to do is shorten it by spending weeks in isolation – or worse, in hospital – because you’ve contracted COVID-19.

The good news is that you can reduce your risk of getting and spreading the virus by taking a few simple precautions.

No matter what your plans are this summer, it’s important to follow public health directives: stay home if you are sick, wash your hands often, practice physical distancing, consider wearing a face covering whenever physical distancing is difficult, and limit how long you’re around other people.

Outside activities are safer then indoors because there is more airflow and generally more space to spread out. Follow these tips for getting outside, staying safe and having a happier, healthier summer.

Barbeque get-togethers offer one such example. We are used to following standard food safety advice such as not leaving food items out longer than two hours, always using clean utensils to serve and consume food, and covering food when it’s not in use.  But this summer, we have to add physical distancing to our list of cautions. So, when arranging seating for your outdoor meal, remember to keep chairs two meters (six feet) apart.

In addition to physical distancing, you may want to encourage your guests to bring their own food and drinks, or have a single person in charge of preparing and serving communal food items. Always eat off of your own plate, and avoid shared plates for hors d’oeuvres or finger foods. Likewise, avoid the traditional custom of blowing out candles on a shared cake.

It’s okay to make your washroom accessible to guests, but be sure everyone knows to leave the light on so that contact with the light switch (a traditionally high-contact area) is avoided. Restrict access to one person at a time, and be sure everyone practices good hand hygiene. Once everyone has gone, clean high-touch surfaces like switch plates, doorknobs and faucet handles.

Those who love the beach or a dip in the pool will find comfort in the fact that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread while swimming if proper physical distancing is maintained. Stay at least two meters away from others in the water, on the beach, in washrooms, and in lines for ice-cream or other treats. Note, however, that physical distancing doesn’t apply to people from the same household or to childrenwho should always be within arm’s reach of an adult when playing in or near the water. Remember to stay hydrated and follow sun safety precautions. Consult the City of Winnipeg’s website for safety protocols for public pools (they will be opening their heated and non-heated outdoors pools as of July 3).

Those who want to make use of federal or provincial parks are encouraged to make reservations or purchase permits online to limit the need to attend park offices. For added safety, consider bringing your own picnic table covers, soap, hand sanitizers, paper towels, face towels and toilet paper.

While using shared spaces larger groups should be conscious of their activities (like arrival and departures) to avoid comingling with other groups. Maintain physical distancing by keeping groups and individuals two meters apart, following directional signage, and by waiting your turn in shared buildings, at overlooks, and when using shared trails.

A little planning can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 between health regions. You should still reach out to your own health provider for any health concerns over the summer. Health services are still open and have appropriate precautions in place so if you do need to see your doctor, for a routine vaccination for example, don’t put it off until after your vacation. Call ahead to their office to determine the best way to meet all of your care needs. As always though, if you have a health emergency, please call 911 or the local emergency number whether you’re at home or on holidays.

Most importantly, if you’re not feeling well, reschedule your plans and stay home until you feel better.

By taking a few simple precautions, you can stay safe and have fun while enjoying our endless hours of sun during our Manitoba summer.

Shauna Krawchuk, Public Health Nurse, Population & Public Health, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.