Life hasn’t exactly been a beach lately.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to put a pause on our usual seasonal fun. And in NYC, these few, sacred months of beautiful weather spent on sandy sanctuaries may look a little different this year. But a day at the beach is still within reach.
“Everyone is desperate to race to the beach right now,” Dr. Summer McGee, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven, tells The Post. “Both the physical and mental benefits of being outside and getting sun and fresh air can’t be underestimated.”
As of now, city beaches like Coney Island, Orchard Beach and the Rockaways remain mostly closed. The Jersey Shore, Long Island and Jones Beach will open this weekend with new rules and capacity restrictions. And beachgoers also face new questions as we adjust to our new normal.
“The salt water is good for the lungs. There are general benefits to the beach air. But all of those are negated if you are on a crowded beach,” says Dr. Tania Elliott, clinical instructor of medicine and immunology at NYU Langone Health.
Here, experts dish out tips to reaping the benefits of the ocean while staying safe.
Sandy social distancing
“Going to the beach is relatively safe as long as you social distance,” says McGee. “Otherwise, in a few weeks from now, we could see cases rise.” In fact, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a warning that beach privileges will be revoked if cases rise.
Beach towns across the region each have different methods of enforcement. Some Long Island beaches say they will cut access to nonresidents to control crowds, while Belmar, New Jersey warns that cops on ATVs will be patrolling. Either way, simple beach items such as umbrellas, blankets and coolers can provide space between sun worshippers.
The idea of going to the beach with a face mask in the high summer heat would have sounded like a joke months ago. But this is our new reality.
“People need to accept that masks are a part of life now,” says McGee. “Regulating capacity at the beach will be a huge challenge. That’s why I think it’s important for people to wear masks outside. You can’t control your environment, but you can be a good neighbor and wear one.”
Skip the loo
While towns will differ on which facilities they open, Elliott says beachgoers should avoid all public restrooms and plan for only short visits to the shore.
“Public restrooms are places where there is high transmission of the virus,” Elliott says. “It can be transmitted in feces and urine and those germs can hang in the air for a number of minutes and possibly an hour of time.”
Ditch your beach chair
We have to adjust to new ways of utilizing the beach that don’t include lounging all day with our friends, because, as Elliott says, “We’re creatures of habit and we revert to getting close to each other inadvertently. [Moving physically closer] starts with passing a container of food or a bottle of water.”
She suggests arriving early in the morning and walking the beach instead of sitting all day.
“Walking along the water should be fine,” Elliott says. “It’s simply better than sitting. Right now, the beach is not meant to be a place to congregate.”
It’s possible to enjoy a relaxing dip.
“The risks are particularly low in the water. Because of the massive volume of the Long Island Sound and the ocean, any particles of the virus are diluted. You still have to have enough contact with the respiratory particles to affect you,” says McGee, who suggests people wear goggles if it brings more peace of mind.
“Just be careful when exiting the water that you still stay far from others because you most likely won’t be wearing your mask,” McGee says.
Ban the tan line
When it comes to masks in the sun, Union Square-based dermatologist Dr. Jennifer MacGregor says it’s important to treat our skin as we would even before the pandemic. That means using a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen, which needs to be reapplied after swimming.
“That includes under your mask,” says MacGregor, adding that masked beachgoers should chose style over substance. “If you’re using an N95 or surgical mask, remember that sunscreen, makeup, water and sweat will contaminate the mask and compromise its efficacy during use.”
She gives a thumbs-up to the “Trikini”, which is a bikini with a matching waterproof face mask made by Italian brand Elexia Beachwear.
“Designers are offering cool options to help us stay comfortable and look good.”
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