Social distancing rules apply — even in the water


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Even outside, it is vitally important to stay at least six feet away from others.

That’s the message from an infectious disease expert at Eastern Virginia Medical School as the weather warms up and public spaces begin to reopen after months of coronavirus shutdowns.

Dr. Edward Oldfield served as EVMS’s chief of infectious diseases for more than 20 years and still teaches at the college.

“This is a very difficult virus,” he said. “Sixty percent of people may be asymptomatic when they transmit [coronavirus].”

The problem can be mitigated if people remember to keep their distance from one another and wear masks when that’s not feasible.

Those basic precautions matter even at the beach and parks, which are reopening in Virginia Beach this weekend.

“Outdoors is less of a risk, but it does not mean the risk goes away,” Oldfield said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consistently said chlorinated pools and hot tubs do not transmit the virus.

Open water, such as lakes, rivers and saltwater bodies, also should not be of concern when it comes to transmitting coronavirus, according to Oldfield, but social distancing rules apply even there.

“I think it is safe to go to the beach with your household unit, but I would stay 6 feet away from other people,” he said. “If you’re out in public and you’re exposed to other people, you should have a mask on.”

Public health officials have repeatedly warned that COVID-19 complications can be much more serious for those who are over 60, overweight, or have diabetes, high blood pressure or other underlying health issues.

“I don’t think I would be wanting to be around other people if I was in one of those high-risk categories,” Oldfield said. “I would want to watch what happens as we gradually reopen, because we’re in uncharted waters.”

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