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Sara’s Diary, Day 73 without baseball: Summer in a pandemic

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Someone finally published a realistic guide for getting through the next few months of the pandemic

People picnic near Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in 2018
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and with real feel temperatures near 80 this is easily the nicest weather Wrigleyville has seen in 2020. But summer in the COVID-19 pandemic seems fraught, as more people want to be outside at a time where the public health experts still advise social distancing, masks and no large gatherings. I’ve found myself wondering what exactly the summer of coronavirus will look like. I mean, we’ve already established that it is extremely unlikely fans will watch baseball at their favorite ballparks, but what exactly can we expect?

In the absence of guidance some people have thrown caution to the wind. On my walk today around the neighborhood I’d say 85 percent of people were gathered responsibly in small groups of two or four, wearing masks, or just sitting in a lawn chair alone reading a book. The other 15 percent were certainly pushing the envelope a bit, I saw a group of five young men playing basketball on a court that is marked as closed and a couple of families who had basically set up a party complete with tents, coolers, bags and other games in another park nearby. Don’t even get me started on the people in this video, which was supposedly shot in the Lake of the Ozarks yesterday:

Yikes.

But we cannot all stay inside indefinitely. It’s not mentally or physically healthy so I was beyond thrilled to see this piece from NPR where they asked experts to talk through the risks associated with various summer activities and other events people have been missing. They even provided us with a proxy for determining risk: time, space, people, place:

It has been around two months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But what’s safe? We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to sharing a vacation house with another household.

One big warning: Your personal risk depends on your age and health, the prevalence of the virus in your area and the precautions you take during any of these activities. Also, many areas continue to restrict the activities described here, so check your local laws.

And there’s no such thing as a zero-risk outing right now. As states begin allowing businesses and public areas to reopen, decisions about what’s safe will be up to individuals. It can help to think through the risks the way the experts do.

“We can think of transmission risk with a simple phrase: time, space, people, place,” explains Dr. William Miller, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University.

I cannot recommend the entire piece more strongly. It gave me a lot of peace of mind to realize there were ways to get outside and enjoy warmth and fresh air this summer. I hope more guides like this are provided throughout the summer, because in the absence of advice people are sure to create more dangerous scenes like this one from Ocean City, MD: