As we head into the winter season in Canada and other parts of the northern hemisphere, there are growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus with the cold weather conditions and snow forcing people indoors.
Many gyms, restaurants, cafes and cinemas have been ordered shut or have imposed strict safety protocols, including mask-wearing, physical distancing and hand hygiene, to prevent the risk of COVID-19 infection.
There is a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission in closed and indoor settings, compared to the outdoors, where the natural flow of air dilutes the virus.
So, if you’re looking for things to do this winter, outdoors is better than indoors. However, Canada’s climate can often be unforgiving, forcing even the most enthusiastic winter warriors inside.
“The safest indoor activities are those that people can be far apart from each other in those environments that can be well-ventilated and where people do wear masks,” Jeffrey Siegel, a professor of civil and mineral engineering at the University of Toronto, told Global News.
A trip to the mall for some holiday shopping could be an option, provided it does not get too crowded and all necessary safety precautions are taken.
You might also want to consider going to the library or your favorite bookstore to read.
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Paula Olsiewski, a contributing scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says the chances of an unmasked person spewing respiratory droplets farther are higher when they talk, yell or sing.
“If I’m indoors, sitting quietly reading a book, that’s fine. If I’m doing vigorous exercise… then I could be breathing deeply and just exhaling more of the virus than if I were just sitting quietly wearing a mask,” she told Global News in a phone interview from New York City.
In Canada, outdoor ice skating is a popular winter pastime, and during the COVID-19 pandemic this is considered a relatively low-risk activity.
“The activity (of skating) itself is safe, but if you’ve got 20 people in an indoor change room, especially unmasked, maybe with poor ventilation, that would be a real challenge,” Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, recently told The Canadian Press
Siegel said indoor tennis is also a relatively low-risk sport, as long as there not a lot of people on the same court.
According to the WHO, water cannot transmit COVID-19, so you can go for a swim if the pool is not too crowded and you keep a physical distance of at least two metres from others.
There are also a number of ways of making indoor spaces safer, including natural ventilation by opening a window or door and through efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Humidifiers, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, fans and ultraviolet (UV) light can be helpful in improving indoor air quality.
If you’re looking to dine out, outdoor patios are the safest best, but don’t forget your masks at home.
“It’s very important that people wear masks at all times when they can,” Olsiewski stressed.
She said when you’re having a meal with someone, be sure to put the mask back on when you’re not actively eating or drinking.
In all scenarios, continue to follow your local government health guidelines and stay safe.
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