The coronavirus doesn’t care about your long weekend plans

Social distancing is hard, but we have to hang on a little longer.
people on the beach
As long as you practice safe social distancing, the outdoors is a low-risk way to spend your long weekend. Pixabay

Follow all of PopSci’s COVID-19 coverage here, including a glossary of oft-used terms, a list of sites with trustworthy medical advice, and tips on safe and healthy biking.

It has been a frustrating couple of months to say the least. Social distancing has kept us stuck in our homes and away from our work, our schools, and of course our social lives and time with family. #Stayhome has become passé, and the warming weather and extra sunshine has rekindled fond memories of summers past—especially with the extended weekend ahead of us.

Memorial Day has long been the unofficial start to summer, and if there was ever a time where we needed a reason to celebrate the start of watermelon-eating, pool-partying, and beach-going season it would be right now.

We’re ready to get out there; unfortunately, the coronavirus is waiting. Lately, I’ve been trying to remind myself that social distancing is a marathon not a sprint. And the finish line is not Memorial Day Weekend.

So, as you gear up for the holiday weekend ahead, here are all the reminders you need to maintain social distancing—and still enjoy yourself.

The coronavirus has not disappeared. In fact, it’s still rising in many states.

Places like New York City, which were once viral hotspots, have seen a dramatic decline in cases. But the Big Apple is not a microcosm for the rest of the country. In fact, as we reported this week, COVID-19 cases are still rising in many states. A chunk of them haven’t even gotten over their initial waves. In spite of all this, regions of the US are reopening parts of their economy (including those that still have rising cases).

We know from past experience what could happen if we break social distancing

Many comparisons have been made between the 1918 influenza pandemic and our current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, but this one warrants a reminder: On September 28, 1918, when cases were just starting to climb, Philadelphia went ahead with its Liberty Loan war-bonds parade anyway. Flu cases spiked just a few days later, and despite invoking social distancing measures immediately afterward, the city still ended up with one of the deadliest outbreaks in America.

While it might be tempting to bend the rules given that we’ve already been social distancing since at least mid-March, and we aren’t about to have giant, city-wide Memorial Day parades, even random acts of breaking social distancing can accumulate and ignite an uptick in cases. It’s far better to err on the side of caution.

As long as you practice social distancing, spending time outdoors is a low-risk way to spend your long weekend.

While many events have indeed been canceled, no one is cancelling walking outdoors. In fact, scientists and public health officials have maintained that with proper social distancing, the risk of catching COVID-19 from being outside is very low. Recent reports, including one from the CDC state that coronavirus is mostly transferred from close contact with infected people, especially in enclosed spaces with little air flow.

That all means that spending the weekend social distancing outside is a great low-risk way to spend your time.

We can do hard things

This week, The New York Times ran a story about what we can learn about social distancing from endurance athletes. As a marathoner myself, this struck a chord with me. Two key factors, pacing and patience, are key. During endurance events, studies show that our minds tell us to stop far before we actually run out of energy. The same can be said for social distancing: we aren’t out of fuel yet.