It’s nice out, the parks are open once again and your kids are getting bored sitting at the same table for lunch and dinner every single day.
You’re considering a picnic — a favorite activity of past summers — but aren’t sure if it’s safe to do or where to go. Maybe you should just do a backyard picnic instead?
“For people, it’s all about their degree of risk tolerance,” said Dr. Jason Bruce, an associate medical director for primary care at Boys Town National Research Hospital. “So the 100% safe answer is having a picnic in your backyard. But you can definitely do things out and do it safely.”
Below are some tips to consider before packing up for some picnic fun.
While Omaha parks are open and are great spots for picnics, you should consider how busy popular destinations like Elmwood, Memorial or Zorinsky parks will be on a brilliantly sunny 80-degree day. Consider a less popular park or even neighborhood parks for starters. Wherever you pick, make sure you’re at least six feet away from anyone else. And make sure you’re wearing a mask — especially when you first get there, as the parking lot might be where you experience the most people.
Maybe other people are considering noon picnics, so think about having a late morning snack and hold off on lunch until 1 or 2 p.m. Or head out for an early or late dinner at the park. And who says you can’t do a morning brunch picnic at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday?
While it might be tempting to gather a group of friends or combine two families, even the best intentions of staying six feet away can fail — especially if kids are involved. So it’s best to stick with the person or people you are living with on a daily basis.
But if you’re considering getting together with another family, Bruce recommends taking into consideration any other risk factors — health, employment, elderly family members, etc. — that might make either family uncomfortable. He also advised people to wear masks and stay six feet apart — including kids.
“Kids are the hardest because they don’t understand and want to see cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents; they want hugs,” he said. “Have a conversation before you get there to prepare for it.”
Bring your own amenities
“The less things you can touch, the better,” Bruce said. “So if you’re on a blanket or your own chairs or table, that would be safest. If you’re going to use a public picnic table, wipe it down or put a cover on it when you first get there.”
Be sure to use hand sanitizer and don’t touch your face. And go to the bathroom at home so you avoid having to use the park’s public restrooms.
Remember food safety
Safely pack everything in a thermos or insulated food container (or a cooler for non-cooked items) to keep food at a safe temperature. Remember: Don’t eat food that’s been sitting out for longer than two hours (or after one hour if the outside temperature is 90 degrees), according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Overall, getting outside is excellent. It’s good for physical and mental health, Bruce said.
“We can’t be cooped up for months on end. Going outdoors, getting exercise and doing social distance meetings — especially with close family — is good but we want to do it in the safest manner possible.”