One local medical professional has some advice if you have plans to gather with your family and friends during the long Fourth of July weekend.
“My advice regarding gathering of people that you haven’t seen in a little while is don’t do it,” Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati, said.
Fichtenbaum said he understands people are tired of being home and want to get out and see friends and family, but he's concerned it will lead to the spreading of COVID-19.
“It’s hard to know what other people have. That’s the key factor here," he said. "There’s not a big C on the forehead of individuals that says, ‘I have COVID-19.’”
His advice comes as Governor Mike DeWine pointed to Hamilton and Montgomery counties as areas of Ohio seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases.
It also comes as millions of Americans are planning trips and vacations during the summer, from July 1st to the end of September, according to AAA. About 700 million trips will be taken by Americans during the summer, more than 97% of them by car, said Jenifer Moore, AAA spokeswoman.
“Air travel is off by about 74%, which is a large decrease,” Moore said. “I think that’s just because Americans aren’t really comfortable yet with getting on a plane in such close quarters, even if there are social distancing guidelines that are being practiced by the airlines.”
She said they've noticed that people are waiting until the last minute to finalize their travel plans.
“Some people that may have been planning to travel in the next two or three weeks are now saying let me just wait a minute, give it a couple weeks to see what happens,” she said. Then, Moore said, people decide at the spur of the moment to take a trip for the weekend or go camping.
Fichtenbaum said if the travel is with close family members who live together or already spend a lot of time together, that should be fine. However, with family and friends you don't live with, he said it's important to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, wash your hands and practice social distancing to avoid detrimental consequences.
“You’re going to have people get together, and they’re going to get together in close proximity, and you know, they’ll be having fun and things like that, and I think we’re going to see a further increase in the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community,” he said.
Fichtenbaum said it all comes down to the number of people in your gathering. He said going boating, for example, is probably fine with a small number of people on the boat and the ability to socially distance.
“If you have 15 people on a boat and, you know, everybody’s having a good time, it’s going to be hard to social distance in that setting," he said.
Moore said AAA has an interactive map at TripTik.aaa.com that shows the restrictions by state and, in some cases, by counties. It includes information like the gathering limits, whether beaches are open, restaurant seating and more.
“Really, really look at the local, state and federal guidelines and recommendations and suggestions, because cases are increasing in certain areas,” she said.
In addition to making sure your car is ready for the road and keeping an emergency roadside kit, Moore advises to have cleaning supplies to clean and disinfect your vehicle, masks, gloves or plastic sandwich bags to cover your hand while pumping gas.
“Put your hand in the sandwich bag, grab the pump, pump the gas, dispose of the sandwich bag,” she said.
Using the tools that worked to help communities and states flatten the curve need to continue so that the progress made isn't completely wiped out, according to Fichtenbaum. He said he doesn't want to stop people from having fun during the fourth of July holiday. He wants people to celebrate, but safely.
“We’ve lost 125,000 people in the United States. We can never get them back again. And I think that’s really important to know, because I don’t think anybody will be very happy if we lose another 125,000,” he said.