Four Activities You Should Avoid this Summer — and What You Can Do Instead

As Massachusetts continues to move through its phased reopening plan and more businesses and services come back online, it can be easy to think that it’s safe to partake in all of the summer activities you’ve enjoyed in years past.

However, it’s important to remember that the threat of COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and that we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic.

Of course, this isn’t to say that we should remain in our homes all summer — after all, the state’s “stay at home” advisory has been modified into a “safer at home” advisory.

Like most other aspects of our lives, the rest of this summer will require some adjustment to a “new normal,” an understanding that we must adjust some of our habits or traditions in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

While some summer staples (like going to the beach) can be enjoyed safely by maintaining appropriate social distance, other summer activities should be put on hold indefinitely.

Here are four summer activities you should avoid:

1. Skip the crowded indoor spaces, like restaurants and bars.

After staying at home for several months, it’s understandable that people might be looking forward to a meal at their favorite restaurant.

Massachusetts recently gave restaurants the green light to resume indoor dining, and many restaurants have added outdoor spaces for diners as well.

However, indoor dining comes with increased risk for transmission of COVID-19. 

It’s harder to maintain social distance in a confined indoor space, and any airborne particles may linger in the air longer than they would outdoors.

Try this instead: Stick to outdoor dining where proper social distance is maintained. The state has set up very specific guidelines for these outdoor spaces, and with more room to spread out, it will be easier to stay six feet apart from any other diners.

Outdoor dining will allow you to enjoy a meal in the fresh air and support a local business, all while carrying a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission than eating inside.

2. Avoid large family gatherings, especially with high-risk populations.

Summer is a popular time for cookouts, birthday parties, and other big celebrations. And while it’s important to remain connected with loved ones, it’s equally important that those celebrations look a little different this summer.

Large cookouts, pool parties, and other gatherings should be avoided, even if attendance is limited to extended family. 

Large crowds make it nearly impossible to maintain social distance in a backyard or around a pool — and even if you limit attendance to younger, healthier individuals, it’s important to remember that those individuals can still go on and infect others who may not be as young or healthy.

It’s particularly important to limit in-person contact with high-risk individuals, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

While this may mean the postponement of a beloved summer tradition like the yearly visit to a grandparents’ summer home, it’s better to play it safe.

Try this instead: Continue to connect virtually whenever possible. While a virtual birthday party isn’t quite the same, it’s still a good way to remain in contact with your loved ones while eliminating the risk of anyone getting sick.

Should you have any in-person gatherings, it’s important to keep them as small as possible. Stick to outdoor gatherings and ensure that social distance is maintained at all times. Also, don’t forget to wear a mask or face covering!

3. Avoid the local playground or splash pad.

This “new normal” summer is especially tough on children, who are accustomed to a degree of freedom in the summer months. For children, summer days are supposed to be filled with playgrounds, swimming pools, and games with friends.

While it’s certainly still possible (and important) for kids to get out and have some fun this summer, places like playgrounds and splash pads should be avoided.

These places may be full of fun, but they’re also full of high-touch surfaces.

It can also be extremely difficult to maintain social distance at a place like a crowded playground, and mask-wearing may not be as prevalent as it should be with crowds of children at a splash pad.

Try this instead: Consider setting up a sprinkler or small pool at your own home, giving your children a way to cool off and have some fun without having to worry about crowds.

You can also try playing different backyard games or sports with your children. While these may not be as fun as a trip to the playground, your children will still be getting valuable exercise without the risk.

4. Avoid the long-distance getaway.

For many South Shore families, “summer” is synonymous with “family vacation.” These are the trips that families look forward to year-round, trips that create lifelong memories.

These vacations are also a great way for families to unwind from the stress of everyday life, and to enjoy some quality time together.

However, this summer isn’t the best for long-distance travel.

While airlines and other modes of transit are doing their best to keep things safe, long-distance travel still comes with a significant degree of risk from both other passengers and from shared, high-touch surfaces at places like airports and train stations.

Try this instead: If you need to get away, consider staying relatively local and going with a “staycation.”

While staycations may not be as exotic as a trip overseas, they can be a great way to have some fun while remaining close to home. Staycations also allow families to drive on their own, rather than sharing a plane with other passengers.

Camping can be a great low-risk way to explore a new place, or consider a day-trip to one of the many wonderful state parks or reservations in our region.

If you choose to leave Massachusetts, it’s important to check your destination state’s guidelines for out-of-state visitors.


Simone Wildes, MD is an infectious disease physician at South Shore Health.