It’s summer in the time of COVID and outside is the new living room. With the outdoors being the less risky option for home entertainment, many of us look out the back door with a fresh eye.
But where do you start when you’re thinking of freshening up your space for summer – while also making sure it’s as safe as possible? An infectious disease expert and an interior designer must lead this conversation.
Paul E. Turner, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University and the Faculty of Microbiology at Yale School of Medicine, and Jessica Shaw, Director of Interior Design at Turett Collaborative, shared their guidance TODAY.
If you want to socialize, do so outdoors
Why is it so important to be outside? The virus is diluted outdoors. Even if someone sheds the virus, Turner explains, the wind will disperse it, allowing your immune system to fight off the much smaller amount of virus it might encounter. “That risk is much lower outdoors,” he said. “It’s not zero, but it’s a lot lower.”
Stick to the 6-foot rule
Just being outside is not enough. With such a contagious virus, “social distancing is still very important,” Turner said. “I find it a minor inconvenience that when I see friends I don’t want to share food, utensils, and drinks, and I constantly try to keep everyone’s hands clean and social distance of six feet or more apart of those who live with you in your home. … Yes, we long for a more normal existence, but we are not there yet. And the big goal here is not to get sick. “
It’s also important to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s instructions and wear a mask as often as possible.
Share a grill, but ask BYOB of your guests
“I’m a huge grilling fan, I love grilling,” said Turner. “I am very much in favor of socializing as long as you can do so carefully.” That said, BYOB drinks and side dishes, he said, ideally with a separate table for visitors. “It’s possible to share a grill with people,” he said, since food from a high-heat environment where the virus cannot thrive is sterile. Just don’t share utensils. (We set out to mark ours with colored tape when we visit friends!)
Prepare the bathroom
Wherever there is food and drink, there is of course the million dollar question: What about the bathroom? “Yes, basic body functions will always be necessary,” said Turner. So: “You clear a path so that no objects with high contact are handled on the way to and from and within the bathroom. You can have some paper towels so people can turn the faucet on and off, open the door, and close the door with these disposable items. This reduces the possibility of a high contact object such as a doorknob being a source of infection. “That is,” we need to be more concerned about being around someone who is sick, “who may not know, he added. “This is really the primary way the virus appears to be moving from person to person.”
How to design your outdoor area for a socially distant summer
Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the multitude of outdoor areas, you should first set your priorities if you want to prepare your space for a socially distant summer.
1. Find out what is important to you
Would you like to cook, work in the garden or just have drinks and chats with friends? Identify your “workload” based on these priorities, Shaw said, and choose the most important if you can’t get them all done. For us it was a fire pit to have a center of gravity – and a natural barrier – for a seating area to have cocktails with friends.
2. Do your research
Go online now. Combine Pinterest and Instagram with specific searches. “Yard with Black Fence Ideas” helps narrow down a search much more than a generic search for “backyard ideas,” and lets the results lead you through the rabbit hole of inspiration.