What to Know Before Heading to an Open Beach This Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend will be unlike years past, as the novel coronavirus pandemic will have those looking to enjoy a day at the beach implement measures to keep themselves and their families protected.

New York, California, Florida and other states on the coasts will allow beaches to open for the holiday weekend, although most will be open with restrictions. But how safe is it to head to the beach in the middle of a pandemic?

"It's really the close contact with people – whether in the water or on land – that's the concern," Dr. Daniel Pastula, a neuro-infectious disease expert, said in a recent report by UCHealth, a not-for-profit health care system headquartered in Colorado.

"Without proper social distancing, a water park or a pool might be a high-risk scenario. It's not the risk of the water itself. It's the density of people. And, it's hard to wear a cloth mask when it's soaked," Pastula said.

The novel coronavirus usually spreads through person-to-person contact and "mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)," the CDC stated on its website.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Newsweek in an interview that going to the beach should be "relatively safe." However, no public place during the novel coronavirus pandemic will be "zero risk," especially when it comes to the risk factors for each individual.

"Beaches are relatively safe because they are outdoors and people can spread out in the open space. The main issue with this disease is when people crowd together and if they touch common surfaces such as chairs or tables," Adalja said, adding that since the coronavirus is not a water-borne pathogen that the ocean water is not a concern.

Linsey Marr, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in the airborne transmission of infectious disease, told The New York Times that as long as social distancing measures are being adhered to, then beachgoers should be fine.

"The good news is that the virus dies off relatively quickly in direct sunlight. There's often some wind at the beach, which really helps disperse the virus particles in the air," Marr said.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 21: People enjoy a spring afternoon at Brooklyn's Coney Island on May 21, 2020 in New York City. New York City's beaches, a popular destination for people living in cramped apartments, won't be opening for Memorial Day weekend and no date has yet been set for their opening this summer. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Spencer Platt/Getty