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Is it safe to go to the beach as coronavirus cases rise in U.S.? Doctor gives tips

COVID-19 hits black Medicare patients hard
COVID-19 hits black Medicare patients hard 09:39

As coronavirus cases rise in more than two dozen states, Americans may be wondering if it's safe to go to the beach this summer. Although health experts have said there's a lower chance of getting the virus  outdoors than gathering inside, sunbathing and swimming in the ocean with other people is not risk-free

There are some precautions recommended if you are venturing to the beach, Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, an internal medicine physician, said on CBSN Wednesday. 

Here are her tips:

Check to see how crowded the beach is

"Even though staying outdoors is safest, we know that a crowded beach can put you at much higher risk of COVID infection," Ungerleider said. 

She said it's important to keep your distance from other people on land and in the water. 
 
"I like to say at least 10 feet away from others just to give yourself a buffer, and don't swim up next to other people where they could cough or spit or their breath could get on you," she said. 
 
If it gets too crowded, "it's important to leave the area."

Stay home if you're part of a vulnerable population 

"Meaning if you're older or have underlying medical problems, and definitely don't go out if you feel sick," she said. 

Only go with a small group of people

Ungerleider recommended going with a small group "that you know and that you trust."
 
"The larger the group, the greater your risk," she said.  

Bring your own stuff

Ungerleider suggested bringing your own chairs and toys, as well as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.

"Consider that everything that you touch could be contaminated," she said. 

Wear a face mask

Ungerleider recommended bringing two face masks in case one gets wet. 

Wash your hands

"Remember to keep washing your hands while you're out," Ungerleider said. 

"Long road ahead" to a vaccine

Ungerleider also said the predictions that there will be a working coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year are "extremely optimistic." 

"It'd really depend on everything going right at every stage," she said. "I think if we look at history, lots of vaccines that looked good out of early phases didn't turn out to be good products."
 
She warned that it can take years to develop a vaccine and that there is "a long road ahead." 

"I think what the American people need to know is that their behavior matters. We're seeing all these cases go up rapidly in much of the U.S., ICUs and many places are filling up with very, very sick patients, and many tens of thousands of people are dying of COVID," she said. 

"Everyone needs to consider their behavior, their actions. Stay home if you can, always wear a mask in public, distance from others, and if you have to go out, wash your hands."

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