• Getting fresh air and being outside is good for your immune system and will likely lower your risk of catching COVID.
  • Heat and humidity decrease the time the virus stays alive, so the virus is less likely to spread outdoors than in enclosed, indoor spaces.
  • Coronavirus is unlikely to spread in water, but you could still catch it on commonly touched surfaces, like pool railings, lounge chairs, and tables.
  • Contact sports are risky and not recommended, but other sports that allow for social distancing, like tennis with marked balls, are good options. 

Video Transcript


JOHN WHYTE: Hi, everyone. I'm Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD. I've had the opportunity over the past few months to interview over 100 experts about coronavirus and how it impacts our life. My first guest was the US surgeon general and my hundredth guest just a few days ago was the US surgeon general.

We had a conversation that covered a range of topics as to what happened early on, what we've learned, how the impact of protests are potentially impact from coronavirus, and what the future holds. In this episode, we got a little lighter and had the opportunity to talk about summer fun.

What can you do in terms of activities? Going to the pool, going to the beach, playing contact sports. How do you go outside and have fun and get vitamin D? I think you'll want to take a listen and understand how you can still have fun but know your risk.

What advice do you have, though, as they evaluate their summer activities? What-- what should they be thinking might be OK to do and-- and other activities that they might want to hold off on this year in our new normal?

JEROME ADAMS: Well, great question. And one of the things that we've been telling governments also applies to individuals. This is not a light switch. It's more like a gradual dimmer switch. We don't want to go from doing nothing to all of a sudden going back to what we considered normal three months ago.

Uh, the-- the advice we have for reopening America is at whitehouse.gov/openingamerica. And it talks about a-- a phased approach, making sure we're protecting always people who are vulnerable. Those who were over the age of 60 to 65 and those who have medical-- uh, chronic medical conditions.

But-- but again, uh, gradually reopening while always still paying attention to face coverings, uh, social distancing, and, uh, and good hygiene. But-- but really what I tell people is, number one, understand the burden of disease in your community.

Uh, you're going to behave differently if you're in downtown New York City than you are in Omaha, Nebraska. And, uh, it's important to understand that that has to do with the density of the population. That has to do with whether or not you're taking public transportation. Uh, that has to do with whether or not you have a continual community spread of coronavirus in your community. And again, you can find that out at your local department of health website.

And once you understand the burden of disease in your community, you can make an informed choice, uh, then by thinking about, am I at risk or am I not. Because if you're at a high risk, if you're an older person with chronic medical conditions, you should still be thinking about staying home as much as possible.

If you're in a lower risk category, then you may start to, uh, venture out. And when you start to venture out, then step three is really understanding what you can do to stay safe. And that's taking the basic precautions. And it's also thinking about your bubble. Who's going to be in your bubble?

And your bubble is the people around you who you trust, who you know they've been practicing, uh, good hygiene, that they haven't been out and about in settings where they could be exposed to someone with COVID. And so people will gradually start to widen that bubble.

You asked, uh, about specific activities. Some people are going to restaurants again. Again, while recognizing social distancing and wearing visual coverings. Going to a pool, uh, could be safe. We know that, uh, coronavirus is unlikely to be spread through water. But we also know that there are high-- high touch surfaces, commonly touched surfaces at public pools.

And so it's important to stay six feet away from other people. It's important to be careful about whether or not you're touching handles or knobs or railings going back into pools and that you're practicing good hygiene. Things to avoid or any activities where you're going to be around and in close proximity to large numbers of people who, uh, who you don't know, who you don't know if they're an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus.

Contact sports are going to be off, whereas other sports like hiking, uh, like playing tennis with marked balls. Things that you could do that don't, again, put you in close proximity to other people who you may not know.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, I know you don't have a lot of free time. But what's on the surgeon general's summer agenda of fun with the family?

JEROME ADAMS: Well, um, a lot of people don't know. I am the first surgeon general, uh, in recent memory to have school aged kids. And that both is a tremendous challenge, but also it gives me a tremendous reality check when we talk about health issues like vaping, when we talk about issues like, um, the pros and cons of keeping people out of school.

And so I have a 15, a 14, and a 10-year-old. Um, my two boys, 15 and 14, we like to play basketball out in the-- out in the yard. Um, one of my boys really loves fishing and so I took him fishing. That's a great activity to participate in where you can practice social distancing where you can be outside.

My daughter really likes soccer. And so she and I will go outside and-- and kick the soccer ball around to each other. So we're really trying to find ways to be active, um, to be out and about. Fresh air is not just good for you in-- in normal circumstances. But we also know being outside will, uh, likely lower your risk of getting COVID because it's good for your immune system.

Uh, the virus is going to be less likely to spread outside than in enclosed indoor spaces. And both heat and humidity have been shown to decrease the amount of time the virus lives. So many benefits to being outside. And I would encourage people to find ways to safely go outside, but to understand that physical distancing doesn't have to mean physical inactivity or, uh, social isolation.

JOHN WHYTE: And real quickly. You know, one of the most commonly searched topics on WebMD is about anybody testing. Should folks consider getting an antibody test?

JEROME ADAMS: Well, important for people to know that there are two main categories of tests. One category is testing for active virus. To see if you have live coronavirus in your system right now and if you can spread it to others. Uh, the other is antibody testing. And antibody testing really tells us whether or not you have been exposed to coronavirus and subsequently recovered from it.

The-- the active virus testing is the-- the most practical testing for us because it-- it lets us know whether or not you should quarantine or-- or isolate so that you're not spreading disease to others. The antibody test, we're still trying to figure out where and when that will be useful.

And-- and here's what I mean. Uh, we don't know for sure yet, uh, whether or not having antibodies protects you from getting reinfected and for how long. Uh, we do know that, uh, having antibodies makes you a-- a candidate for being able to donate plasma and potentially help other people cover-- recover from coronavirus, so that's one reason to get antibody tested.

There are people who are, uh, tossing around the idea of a-- of giving people who have antibodies an immunity card so that we know, hey, you likely have an immunity to the coronavirus and we don't know for sure for how long. But that may be someone who were more likely to send to the frontlines as a police officer or a health care worker, uh, versus someone who doesn't have antibodies.

But Indiana, for instance, just did a-- a survey where they found 2.8% of their population either had active coronavirus or had been exposed to it and had developed antibodies. So that means that 97 plus percent of their population hadn't been exposed to it. In that environment, it's not practical to say, we're only going to let people with the antibodies go out into public.

So overall, um, some very specific uses for antibody testing in terms of donating plasma. But right now, uh, we don't have a-- a good idea as to whether or not it's going to be practical for the average person out there to know their antibody status. And so I would say talk to your health provider.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, Dr. Adams, I want to thank you for all that you're doing to help keep our country safe.

JEROME ADAMS: Thank you. Be safe and good luck to you and your family as you all venture out safely this summer.

JOHN WHYTE: And thank you for watching Coronavirus in Context.