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Expert rates the COVID-19 risks of 6 summer acitivities in Lubbock

Kaysie Ellingson/Texas Tech Public Media

The coronavirus pandemic has kept people home for months, itching for sunshine and social interaction. But favorite summer activities are going to be different this year.

More than 675 people in Lubbock have been diagnosed with COVID-19. But the worst of it seems to be over, said Dr. Prakash Shrestha, an infectious disease specialist for Covenant Health.

“It looks like we are in a recovery phase," he said. "I think we’ve already had our peak. Right now, the number of new cases has been going down.”


Three-fourths of Lubbock’s COVID-19 patients have recovered. Fewer people were diagnosed in May, even as testing efforts increased. No one locally has died from the virus in almost three weeks and hospitalization rates are down., according to City of Lubbock data


Only about 16% of cases have been contracted through community exposure, which means a patient does not know where they got COVID-19. 


Overall, things are improving in Lubbock, Shrestha said. But we should all remain wary. 


“We say ‘Respect all, but suspect all,'" Shrestha said. "You have to suspect every individual that’s standing in front of you.” 


Asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers are a concern. People are encouraged to wear a mask in public, especially in enclosed places. Staying six feet away from others and frequent handwashing is still important.  


As the economy and activities restart, some experiences can be higher-risk than others.


"There are a couple of factors that really increase your risks, and I have listed them as three Cs. Closed space, crowds and close contacts," the doctor said.


We asked Shrestha about specific summer activities and their risk levels. He gave some advice to get back out there safely. Being mindful every time you leave the house or see other people is a way to lower the risk of infection.  




Shrestha: “I would say that’s low to medium risk. It usually happens in the open space. Especially if you are with only one or two other families and they’re also maintaining good social distancing measures, the risk would be low. To further decrease the risk, you could bring your own food. Do not share utensils, drinks or foods. All of these things would decrease the risk to very, very low.”  


Going swimming at a pool or lake 


Shrestha: “Experts feel that water kind of dilutes the virus and the chance of transmission is low, especially if you can maintain that six-feet social distancing both in water and on land. The risk is not that high, especially if it’s not overcrowded. The risk is low to medium.” 


Going to a restaurant or bar 


Shrestha: “Bars and restaurants are high risk. If you go with those three Cs, it has all of them. Closed space. They may have poor ventilation. People are hanging around in the restaurant for a long time. So when there’s close contact for an extended period of time, that increases your risk. Especially in a bar. When people are drunk, all of the social distancing measures are out of the window. That kind of environment will increase the risk significantly.” 


Celebrations, like graduations and weddings 


Shrestha: “If it’s indoor, it would be high risk. A lot of crowd, closed space, people talking. Especially if people are traveling outside of Lubbock. If people are coming from high-prevalence areas, like New York or California or Colorado, the risk will certainly be very high.” 


Much like a barbecue, a small outdoor celebration would be lower risk. 


Getting a haircut or nails done 


Shrestha: “That’s also a medium to high risk because you can’t maintain six feet social distancing and have your hair and nails done. Just because of the fact that you have to be close to the person doing it, that increases the risk. But, the risk can be decreased by wearing a mask and not having any conversation during the process.” 




Shrestha: “It depends on if you’re flying or driving. Flying is a moderate risk because you’re in a closed space with somebody you don’t know. If one person is infected that could expose everybody on that flight. That’s a moderate risk. If you’re driving in your own car, then the risk would be low. But again, you have to be careful using public restrooms, subways, places like that.” 


Travelers should be aware of the COVID-19 situation in the city they plan to visit. Shrestha said it would be a low to medium risk to stay at a hotel. 

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