Family Beach Day During “COVID Summer”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I don’t know about you, but the last several weeks my family and I have been feeling more cooped up than usual. It has been difficult to deal with the realities of our current situation as the days are now sunny and warm and perfect for all things SUMMER! I feel like I spend a good chunk of my time dreaming up ideas for the weekend, just to strike everything off the list because they are not COVID-safe activities. Last Friday was definitely a tipping point for me, as I sat deflated, and—let’s be honest—angry about not having anything fun planned for the weekend to come.

To pull myself out of this emotional slump, I picked up the phone. I dialed Deception Pass State Park and, with fingers crossed, asked the woman on the phone if their beach was open for visitors. She said that it was, and I thanked her profusely (and rather dramatically) before hanging up. “Woohoo!! Tomorrow will be beach day,” I shouted to my husband. I went to bed feeling over-the-moon excited about finally having a “normal” summer activity planned.

As we drove into the park, I looked around to gauge if anything looked different from last summer. I was nervous about being so out in the open and felt a little anxious about what I might find as we pulled into the parking lot. When we finally parked, I let out a sign of relief.

Deception Pass State Park – photo of the beach at 1:00 pm right before we left for the day.

Along with the regular beach things like sand toys, hats, sunscreen, and a packed lunch, I was sure to bring a face mask for my husband and myself. Even though our oldest is only three (and exempt from the State/County mask requirement), I packed a little pink practice mask along in case she wanted to imitate mommy (and yes, she absolutely did, and it was very cute). Thankfully, we had decided to get there early (as recommended online), in order to avoid larger groups that would gather later in the afternoon. This turned out to be a very smart move! By around 1:30pm, the whole beach was becoming packed with people, and we were able to make a mad dash to the car to keep socially distanced.

All in all, our little adventure at the beach went swimmingly (HA!). Except for having to wear a mask and being a bit more protective of our personal space than I typically would, the day seemed like any other beach day that my family and I might have enjoyed in the past. We all left feeling physically spent, but emotionally energized. On the car ride home, my husband suggested that we should go grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant (which we haven’t done since early March). For the first time in a very long time we sat and enjoyed a meal all together on an outdoor patio. Something that would have been so normal last year now felt like the most delicious treat, and I was impressed and grateful as I watched the restaurant staff and patrons abide by safe-distancing protocols.

What I realized in venturing outside of my comfort zone last weekend is that I cannot feasibly hole up forever. I need to make peace with the fact that this is a marathon—not a sprint—and I need to find balance in order to keep my sanity intact. So, while it isn’t safe or responsible to take on a full calendar of summertime events like before, it is absolutely okay to get out and safely find a little normalcy in very abnormal times.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Remember: find some balance this summer and take care of your mental and emotional needs. A little sand between the toes does a lot of good once in a while!

So here are a few take-aways for other households who may be looking for a little beachy fun.

  1. Go early. Like I mentioned above, this is essential in order to make sure that you avoid the crowds that will inevitably arrive come mid-afternoon. We got to the beach at 11am, and it was perfect timing! We were able to secure a space for our things that allowed for safe distancing, and we made an effort to steer clear of more congested areas. Just about the time when we were all feeling sunned-out and a little cranky, it was time to go!
  2. Have your face mask on hand. You will be expected to wear it when using public facilities, and it is smart to wear one when passing people in the parking lot or along trails. Children four and younger and those with underlying medical or behavioral health conditions are exempt from the mask requirement. However, parents of children ages two to four are encouraged to have masks available for their kids when in public settings. Lastly, the CDC states that masks are not required to be worn while people are in the water because they can be difficult to breathe through when they get wet. However, this means that it is even more important to maintain social distancing while swimming or wading.
  3. Pack what you will need and avoid unnecessary stops. And with multiple children, this can be a huge undertaking! Be sure to pack your own sand toys, sunscreen, towels, swimwear, hand wipes, and food (when applicable). Before arriving at the beach, talk to your children about keeping track of their toys and explain why—in this particular situation— they shouldn’t share. Talk to your kids about what they should expect when they get to the beach, and talk them through the experience. 
  4. Practice good hygiene and follow posted instructions. This not only will ensure that you keep yourself and your loved ones safe, but also lets the people around you know that you are taking these new requirements seriously. The more people that are seen following these safety precautions, the more likely that others will follow suit.
  5. Don’t go if you are feeling sick. Also, do not go if you have had recent exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case. Keep in mind that many infected people never show symptoms but can still be contagious. We can all do our part to curb the spread of the virus, and that means staying home when we have symptoms. You can find the list of symptoms here:

Child with face mask

Tips for Face Covering for Kids

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Beginning Friday, June 26, Washington State now requires everyone to wear a cloth face covering in public when they cannot maintain six feet of distance from others. Here are some answers to questions that parents and other caregivers might have about face coverings and children. 

When does the face covering requirement apply to children? 

The requirement applies to children ages five years and older, unless they are medically directed to do otherwise. The Washington State Department of Health strongly recommends, but does not require, children who are two to four years old use face coverings in public settings under the close supervision of an adult. Children who are younger than two should never wear face coverings. With smaller airways, breathing through masks are difficult for little ones. For infants, there may be an increased risk of suffocation. Also, older infants and young toddlers are likely to pull the mask off, resulting in them touching their face more often. The risks outweigh the benefits for children younger than two years old.

Children older than five do not need to wear face coverings when they are at home or in the car if they are only with people from their own household. They also do not need to wear a face covering when playing outdoors when they can maintain six feet of social distance from others. When you are outdoors as a family, it is a good idea to keep face coverings in a pocket or bag to use in case you come across other people from whom you cannot stay six feet away.

What are some tips for encouraging younger children to wear face coverings?

ParentMap recently published an article with some great tips on encouraging children to wear face coverings. The advice includes:

  • Children often learn through play; you can introduce the idea by placing a face covering or mask on your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal.
  • Buy or make masks in patterns that match your child’s interests. If your child is into unicorns or superheroes, choose a pattern that they will be excited to wear.
  • Practice wearing a face covering at home, even if it is just for a few minutes. This is especially important if your kids are headed to a place where a face covering is required, like on an airplane flight. 

What should I look for in face coverings?

The face covering should fit securely over your child’s nose and mouth. If you are purchasing one, look for washable covering made from multiple layers of tightly woven fabric. Every child is different so you might need to try a few styles and sizes before finding one that works best.

If you would like to make your own, there many tutorials online that can be made without any sewing skills and with materials you probably already have at home. The CDC has several easy-to-follow templates and mask-making instructions on its website

How should I care for my child’s face coverings?

It is safest to wash your face covering after each wear because it has the potential to be contaminated when you are out in public. The best practice is for children and caregivers to wash or sanitize their hands before putting on and after removing their face coverings. You should try to avoid touching the outside of the covering by folding it carefully and storing it in a private place, such as a personal plastic zip-top bag.

Finally, it is important to remember that wearing masks enhances but does not replace the other prevention measures that we have already been doing. We all still need to stay home when we are sick, keep six feet away from others, and wash our hands frequently.

Should I Wear a Face Mask? The Answer is yes

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How and when to cover your face to slow the spread of COVID-19

For weeks people have been asking, “Should I wear a face mask in public?” In short, the answer is YES.

Staying at home and limiting contact to only people in our household is best. But at some point, many of us will need to go to the grocery store, or the pharmacy, or to our jobs if we work at one of the identified essential businesses.  How do you stay healthy and keep others safe when you need to venture out into the world to meet you or your family’s essential needs?

The CDC and Skagit County’s Health Officer are now recommending we wear face masks or coverings in public for any group gathering, including workplaces. This will be a key tool in preventing the spread of infection from COVID-19.

Wearing a mask/covering does not mean you should go about your life as before. To stay safe for yourself and others you still need to:

  • Maintain good social distancing practices – 6-feet of physical distance from non-household members, and
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water (best) or with alcohol-based hand sanitizer (good second choice when soap and water aren’t available) , and
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Never touch your face with dirty hands.

Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures.

Why Now?

Recent studies show that many people with COVID-19 transmit the virus even when they are not showing any symptoms. This means people who don’t feel sick or look sick can spread COVID-19 through speaking, coughing, or sneezing. In light of this new evidence, the CDC and Skagit County Public Health concluded face masks or coverings are necessary to the Skagit community’s health.

Cloth Face Coverings vs N-95 Respirators

Cloth face coverings made from household items and common materials at low cost is recommended. Do It Yourself (DYI) cloth face coverings are also called “face masks”.

The CDC is not recommending N-95 respirators for the general public – these are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Cloth Face Coverings 101

Don’t have a face covering? Check out these options – even if you don’t sew, there are effective options for everyone.

How to safely wear your new cloth face covering.

The CDC notes that cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Include multiple layers of fabric.
  • Allow for breathing without restriction.
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.