Bowling alleys, theaters and other entertainment venues in Alabama can reopen Friday with social distancing and capacity limits. But at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, the coronavirus appears to be spreading more quickly in the state. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Dr. Ellen Eaton, an infectious diseases professor at UAB, about how to approach this situation as the summer gets underway.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Evaluating the safety of activities:
“There’s really a spectrum of risk in terms of our activities. A small gathering outside, you can imagine a scenario with a bunch of lawn chairs, maybe four or five individuals distanced, not sharing beverages, drinks, food, not a buffet style. Those outdoor environments are safer, and then keeping the number very small. That is in contrast with large gatherings, pool parties with a big cooler of drinks and sodas, a buffet where folks are sharing serving utensils, lots of contact surfaces, frequently touched surfaces and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around a table or on a bench. Those are the much more high-risk interactions that we’re worried about.”
Considerations while traveling:
“Assume you’re going to have limited access to hand hygiene. You’re going to need to bring your own hand sanitizer. You’re going to need to bring wipes. As much as possible plan out your stops in areas that are not the most popular intersections where you often note cars lined up for gas. Try to go to the less traveled rest stops. Try to ensure that your family has used the restroom and has had their meals before you get in the car to limit the number of stops that you’re going to make.”
Concerns as more businesses reopen:
“The medical community, in general, is still feeling the coronavirus impact in our community. And so we are very acutely aware this is a real and present virus and threat to our public health. But when I drive around neighborhoods in Birmingham, over the mountain, there’s a very different feel. I jogged by some festivities that were being planned this morning. I saw chairs and tables and even tents lined up in anticipation of what looked like a graduation party. And that really gave me pause because it just shows the disconnect between the very real risk and what is being really practiced in the community. I think that’s my biggest concern.”