Illinois has entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan, with some surrounding states well ahead of our schedule. That means certain activities including small gatherings are now acceptable and non-essential workers are cleared to head back to work. With so much evolving information, what is safe for our families this summer?
Consider Your Physical and Mental Health
Of course, one of the most important factors for deciding how far to venture this summer with your family is to consider your health, both physical and mental. As summer kicks off, many will relax their efforts, will reduce their use of masks, and move beyond expected protocols for Illinois’ recovery phase. If you or someone in your family is at high risk, it remains important to continue to take precautions, including wearing masks in public spaces, limiting trips to stores, and practicing physical distancing as venues become more crowded.
Make sure to consider your mental health. Are you feeling isolated? Gatherings of ten people or less are currently permitted, so you can plan that playdate with neighbors while taking steps to reduce risks. Does venturing out accompany increased anxiety? It is perfectly okay to continue to use your grocery delivery service or talk to your employer about precautions during this time. The past several months have been particularly stressful and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to your summer activities. Go at your own pace.
Check Your Sources
It is important to keep in mind that there is still a lot of information that we don’t know. For example, there were initially hopes that warm weather and sunlight would slow the spread of the virus. However, it is still transmittable, as we can see from spikes in cases in warm-climate states that opened earlier than Illinois.
To make sure you are working with the latest and most accurate information, utilize a variety of information sources. Some good resources include:
- World Health Organization’: COVID-19 Myth busters
- City of Chicago’s Industries Guidelines, which includes information about parks and outdoor attractions
- State of Illinois Coronavirus Response: Phase 3
- Illinois Department of Public Health: COVID-19 Statistics
- NPR: From Camping to Dining Out: Here’s How Experts Rate the Risks of 14 Summer Activities
Plan Your Camps and Activities
Illinois summer camps vary widely. Although start dates were moved back, many park districts and activity centers have announced registration for activities with new procedures in place, including smaller groups. Other organizations have found creative ways to offer virtual camps about everything from coding to fashion.
While the Chicago Lakefront has not reopened yet, some suburban beaches are already accessible. Because restrictions and reopening timelines vary, make sure to check the current status online before heading out.
As for summer swimming, there are limitations. Because the concern lies with interaction between swimmers and not transmission through water, some centers still plan to hold swim lessons even if public pool access is closed for the season.
Current guidelines require that social gatherings be capped at ten people. If Illinois cases continue to stabilize and decline, that cap will move to 50 people when Phase 4 begins. In the meantime, consensus remains that getting outdoors lowers your risk—so take advantage of the warm weather. Activities like hiking, a backyard picnic, and a family bike ride can all make for a fun summer! You can still gather with another family or two for those 4th of July festivities.
Ready to hit the road? The CDC has a good list of considerations if you plan to travel this summer. Make sure to review the spread of COVID-19 in the area where you are visiting and the health of your companions. Additionally, you will want to research whether the attractions you plan to visit will be open. If you stay at a hotel, consider skipping public use hot spots like the fitness center or pack groceries to avoid crowded restaurants. Perhaps consider a road trip with another family to a rental home where exposure is more limited.
While we aren’t back to business as usual, Phase 3 still allows for summer fun while staying healthy—and opportunities to explore some areas typically off the beaten path. Enjoy!