Health and Wellness

Social distancing through summer: Here's what we know about beaches, travel, camps and more

Kerry Breen
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The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of daily life: there are lines and price increases at grocery stores, schools and workplaces are closed, and many of our plans have been cancelled for the rest of the year. Skyrocketing unemployment, ever-changing information about symptoms and effects, and a death toll that currently tops 90,000 in the United States only add to the chaos of the pandemic.

Despite the bleak predictions, many people are trying to salvage some sense of normalcy this summer — and help their children enjoy the months off of school in the warm weather.

TODAY spoke to experts in multiple industries about what some of our favorite summer activities might look like this year.

What will kids be able to do this summer?

For now, summer camps are making decisions on an individual basis. Many have closed or canceled their summer sessions, leaving parents upset and worried about what to do all summer long, especially as parents continue to work from home.

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Recent guidelines issued jointly by the YMCA and the American Camp Association (ACA) do offer a plan for camps regarding sanitary conditions and social distancing. They will be in compliance with state and local guidelines. Online camps are also gaining popularity.

"There are going to be lots of different choices, but not necessarily looking typical this summer," ACA president and CEO Tom Rosenberg told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie in an interview.

Other activities will depend on state and local requirements. In March, NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar recommended limiting the numbers of children in play groups, and to avoid playground equipment that might not be cleaned. Other countries have some ideas of their own — photos from France show children playing in socially-distanced chalk squares.

Will pools be open?

Your local pool might be open, depending on state and local restrictions.

Since pool water is treated with chemicals like chlorine and bromine, maintenance of pools, hot tubs, spas, and water play areas should "inactivate the virus in the water," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the area around the pool may be higher-risk. Most pool-goers will have to touch railings or ladders to get into the water, tables and chairs often see high turnover, and surfaces like benches, bathroom stalls, and more might not be sanitized properly. Pool areas may also not allow for social distancing.

"The bigger issue is that you have to change in the shared locker rooms, and people are often touching the mouth, nose and face and then maybe touching the lockers," Dr. Michael Ison, an infectious disease physician at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, told TODAY in April.

What about going to the beach?

Just like in pools, there's little concern about the virus spreading in the ocean or other large bodies of water like lakes or ponds, but there's some concern about whether people on the shore will be able to properly distance themselves.

"We are hopeful that (beach visits) can happen," said Derek Brockbank, the executive director of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. While the organization typically deals with the environmental concerns of beaches, they've been seeing some changes made to make sure beaches can accept visitors this summer. "Beaches that are well-maintained, are fairly wide, and have a healthy dune system that can keep the boardwalks or storefronts from the immediate beach can be very safe places."

In many areas, beaches are already opening to locals and visitors. New Jersey recently announced that the state's shore would be open for Memorial Day, while Florida has had beaches open for several weeks now. Harder-hit areas like New York City have not issued a clear date for beach openings.

According to Brockbank, the biggest concern is that people will break social distancing guidelines to socialize. "Beaches can be a good place to recreate and exercise and get fresh air, if they are managed properly," he said.

Will I be able to travel this summer?

Travel could be an option this summer, depending on where you want to go. Many countries, including the United States, have