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Tips For Staying Safe On July 4th This Year

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right, people. We are almost there, so close I can taste it. I'm talking about the July Fourth weekend, when, traditionally, we gather with our neighbors, maybe for some barbecue on the grill, reach into a cooler for a cool drink, ooh (ph) and ahh (ph) over the fireworks. But some of the recent surges in COVID-19 are linked to what we began to see over the last holiday weekend, Memorial Day, and all the gatherings that that brought. So we want to bring in NPR's Allison Aubrey to share some of the best strategies to have fun but also stay safe for this holiday weekend.

Hey, Allison.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hi there, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Now, we had Anthony Fauci, Dr. Fauci, on the program just yesterday. And he told me getting to a hundred thousand cases a day is not inevitable. He's been warning about that. But he said we can change our ways and prevent this. So what is the best advice - the best scientific advice about getting together this holiday weekend?

AUBREY: Yeah. Well, the safest thing would be to stay home, and it seems a lot of Americans are planning on that. A Harris poll finds about 60% of people polled say they will avoid gatherings this holiday weekend. But that leaves 40% who will be out and about. So big three things to remember - outdoors is safer than indoors, being masked is better than being not masked and best to avoid crowds. So if you're going to watch a fireworks display, if it's still on in your community, it may be better to watch from a yard or a rooftop compared to a public place that could be crowded.

KELLY: And what about if we are thinking about having some small get-together, a little backyard barbecue with friends?

AUBREY: You know, I think really the best thing to think about is to keep it small. Ideally, gather with people who you know have been taking precautions during the pandemic. And if you're the host, set the example. You can set your chairs 6 feet apart. You can tell your guests to bring their own drinks and ideally BYO everything to cut back on sharing food and clustering too close together.

KELLY: Basically, you're telling me, don't share your food. Don't share the fork for that potato salad. You know, no sharing here.

AUBREY: That's right. That's exactly right.

KELLY: I mean, we also keep hearing that being outside is so much safer. Just remind us - reinforce that message.

AUBREY: Sure. I mean, I point to several factors. It's often easier to stay socially distanced outside. There's better air circulation and also the presence of sunlight. I spoke to Shanna Ratnesar-Shumate. She's a researcher at a center that's part of the Department of Homeland Security. She and her colleagues did a study in their lab where they took the virus that causes COVID-19 and exposed it to different intensities of light.

SHANNA RATNESAR-SHUMATE: As soon as we introduce even low levels of sunlight, about 90% of the virus was inactivated in about 13 minutes. And that's at a sunlight level that you could think about would be in the winter or early morning.

AUBREY: And at peak intensity of sunlight, the virus was inactivated in about seven minutes, so sunlight really can be a good disinfectant.

KELLY: Now, of course, some areas of the country are hot spots. Some areas happily are not. How should we go about determining just our personal risk?

AUBREY: Well, you can see how severe the spread of the virus is in your community. There's a new tool to do this. If you go to globalepidemics.org, you'll see a map. You can hover over your county and see the trend line in cases. You'll see a color, too - either green, yellow, orange or red. I spoke to Aaron Carroll - he's a physician at Indiana University - about the value of a color alert system.

AARON CARROLL: There are areas which are doing great and areas which are doing terribly. And we need the color coding to represent an area that people will understand that these are the measures that I need to take where I live, not necessarily what's going on in another city or let alone another state.

AUBREY: So if you look and you see your county is not green, it's acute to be vigilant. Keep wearing a mask or start wearing a mask. Increasingly, we may see mandates. Just today, Governor Abbott in Texas established a statewide face-covering requirement there.

KELLY: That is NPR's Allison Aubrey.

I hope you have a safe and very happy Fourth of July.

AUBREY: Same to you, Mary Louise. Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOTH BABE SONG, "SUNNNN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.