As people have adapted to life in a COVID-19 world, many communities have begun opening up businesses and venues to larger gatherings. While the past few months of uncertainty have left individuals no stranger to canceled plans, West Texans are cautiously hopeful when looking forward to the July Fourth holiday.
Despite the easing of restrictions, Richard Lampe, M.D., professor in Pediatrics, said it’s still important to remain cautious because the virus has not disappeared. For those planning to celebrate the Fourth of July with family members or other groups of people, Lampe suggested observing some of the same precautions that have become so familiar over the last several months.
“I'd go with the big three: masks, hand washing and reasonable social distancing,” said Lampe.
Individuals traveling should be aware of and comply with the restrictions that apply to their destination, keeping in mind that restrictions can vary not only from state to state, but from city to city.
“In the big state of Texas, cities are different,” said Lampe. “Austin is different from Dallas and certainly different from Lubbock.”
While masks may not be necessary in open spaces like parks, Lampe advised using them for activities like shopping, especially at the grocery store where common cookout items like beverages, buns and hotdogs are sold.
“We cannot predict the future of what's going to happen with COVID,” said Lampe, “but we do know that masks work.”
Additionally, mask-beneficial areas may include the local fireworks stand and large community fireworks shows, depending on the size of the group and the application of physical distancing. Lampe said while he does not discourage mask usage, other precautions might be enough to enjoy the colorful displays without facial coverings.
“I think if there's social distancing, and you're outdoors, you should be safe,” said Lampe.
People should continue to practice social distancing, according to Lampe—especially at indoor gatherings. When attending an outdoor event like a community fireworks show, individuals can set up a blanket a safe distance away from other people to reduce the possibility of virus spread by excited yelling or screaming.
One of the three standard rules—proper hand washing—prevents the spread of many unwanted germs, including the COVID-19 virus. Because most summer cookouts include a buffet-style serving line, those organizing such gatherings can take steps to reduce the chances that family and friends may be exposed to mishandled food.
“Be a little more careful this year,” suggested Lampe. “Use hand wipes or sanitizer in between the foods.” Lampe also recommended providing disposable plates and utensils for those who want to make a second trip through the line.
People who are sick or don’t feel well should avoid contact with others. It may mean missing out on a holiday cookout or fireworks show, but it also will protect the health of others and aid the community overall.
Lampe addressed the excitement surrounding the re-opening of the region by reminding West Texas that, even on a celebratory day, staying cautious and safe can help the community heal from this pandemic.
“By working together in our city and local area, Lampe said, “we will be better off and lessen the effect.”
For additional advice on ear safety, eye safety and protection from COVID-19 this Independence Day, review TTUHSC’s expert-recommended tip sheet.