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Mitigating public health risks this Memorial Day weekend

Local 5 sat down with Dr. Theresa Brennan of University of Iowa Healthcare and Clinics to get her take on how to stay safe this holiday.

IOWA, USA — With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, in a normal year, people would be finalizing holiday plans, from eating out to traveling to everything in between.  

But this isn't a normal year.

Local 5 sat down with Dr. Theresa Brennan with the University of Iowa Healthcare and Clinics to get her take on the state's reopening, and what social distancing and staying safe might mean for this holiday.

Abide by CDC guidelines

Dr. Brennan says we are only as well-protected as the person who practices the least safe behavior amid this pandemic.  She says if one person is wearing a mask and another person is not, the person not wearing a mask could still spread the virus, even if they're asymptomatic.

Dr. Brennan says it's about protecting each other.  She recommends every single person should be wearing a mask whenever they're out in public, as well as practicing other social distancing measures to best keep everyone as safe as possible.

Eating at restaurants

As restaurants begin opening back up, especially this weekend, Dr. Brennan says you have a choice to make.

First and foremost, for the sake of your health, Dr. Brennan says to think about whether or not you're certain going out to eat is in you and your family's best interest.

If you do decide to go, Dr. Brennan stresses the importance of following safety guidelines.  Things like wearing a mask, washing your hands thoroughly, bringing hand sanitizer and often and keeping six feet apart are all ways to minimize your risk for spreading or contracting the virus.

It's also important to keep in mind that some establishments have different requirements than others, so Brennan recommends calling ahead and seeing how the place you're going is handling safety guidelines.

Going out to shopping malls

Dr. Brennan says to consider any surfaces that multiple people touch to be risky.  This includes money.

"If you're in a mall and you're exchanging credit cards and money and having people touch things that you're touching, I think you need to be careful and follow good hand hygiene after that," Dr. Brennan said.

Going to churches, fitness centers

The rate of spread goes up when people have a rapid respiratory rate, according to Dr. Brennan.  Working out, of course, is going to make you breathe harder.  Singing in church could also up the respiratory rate, as breathing while singing is much different than breathing while talking.

As a result, Dr. Brennan says churches and fitness centers could be at an even higher risk of spreading COVID-19, so it's especially important to consider if you want to go at all, and to follow health safety guidelines very closely if you do decide to go.

Engaging in the classic holiday activities

Memorial Day especially sees a lot of people going out to places like state parks to soak in the nice spring weather (though that won't be as great this year).

RELATED: Multiple rounds of storms expected over the holiday weekend

Dr. Brennan says, for nature-goers, the level of risk depends on the situation.  For example, if you're outside camping with no one else around, the risk of catching or spreading the virus isn't great.  However, if you plan to, say, go boating with a bunch of friends, the risk goes way up.

Holidays are also a popular time for family gatherings.  This year could see some, especially, since many families were robbed of spending Easter together.  Family gatherings usually means several people in close proximity with one another, including children who will want to play with each other.

These things are all risky, according to Dr. Brennan.  Children playing with each other might seem fine and good, but the risk is especially increased if anyone lives with people who are constantly out in the community.

All in all, Dr. Brennan says keeping yourself safe is about really thinking about yourself and the people around you.  Consider the risks might be of going anywhere or seeing anyone, and think about whether the risks are ones you're willing to take for both yourself and the people you may be with.

Dr. Brennan says it's important for mental health to get out, but it's especially important for physical health to do it safely.  

"I see people on the streets downtown, going into shops without masks on, not following social distancing," Dr. Brennan said.  "I think Iowa has done such a great job at trying to flatten this curve.  I'm really worried that if we don't continue to do the things we've been doing while we go out, that we will have another surge."

RELATED: What is and isn't reopening in Iowa on Friday

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