How to stay safe outside: Tips from an infectious disease physician

One doctor explains how people can see their friends amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 22, 2020, 7:33 AM

For many, summer is usually spent among friends and family at barbecues or bon fires. And for kids out of school, it usually means daytime play dates with pals.

However, with the coronavirus pandemic, summer looks a bit different this year, and has forced many families to change their plans.

But one virus researcher who lives in a state that’s already opened up may give us a clue as to what the next phases of socializing may look like.

"I'm an extrovert," said Dr. Colleen Kraft, who is an infectious disease physician and microbiologist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and a mother of three in Georgia. She said that she understands the need for in-person socializing, especially for kids, and added, "I think it's really important but everybody is weathering this storm differently,."

Kraft was a doctor in the front lines during the fight against Ebola and now she's doing the same during the coronavirus pandemic. She has seen how coronavirus has ravaged communities, but she also knows that people need people.

"I think some of the scenes I've seen on television of bars and very busy restaurants makes me anxious," she said. "I get to be witness to people being very sick from this virus and it's serious."

Since the pandemic began, she's taken extra precautions to keep her family safe and has also leaned on a limited number of close friends she's called her "Quaranteam" or "Coronavirus Circle," made up of people who are healthy and who are taking similar safety measures that she and her family sees in person while practicing social distancing.

PHOTO: Unrecognizable single parent spraying hand sanitizer to her little boy's hand. Boy is with face mask.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

"Who you feel comfortable having your family and children around because they share the same prevention tactics," Kraft described.

While Kraft socializes outside at a distance with her quaranteam, she is more conservative in other activities. She told ABC News she isn’t yet comfortable going to the gym, the mall, getting her nails done or letting children play at the park. She also keeps trips outside the house to a minimum, including trips to places like the grocery store, and she wears a mask.

"We have a very small circle of people we interact with," she said, explaining that this allows her kids to have play dates and lets the kids play games that don’t have physical contact.

For the adults in her group, she hosts "the six-foot hang out," which separates everyone into groups, all six feet apart, allowing them to spend time together without masks.

"Even when interacting with them, we don't spend a lot of time you know, and it's always outside," she said.

Experts advise no one in the group should have underlying medical conditions and it’s important to note that in many states these gatherings are still not allowed, and even in Georgia groups of 10 or more are not permitted to gather unless they can social distance. The CDC also advises against it.

While Kraft does still have small gatherings with her coronavirus circle friends, she assured that they all do everything they can to stay safe, and don't even share food or utensils.

What to know about coronavirus: