By Dr. Mallika Marshall

(CBS Boston) — Summer is a time to enjoy the water and the sun… at the pool, at the beach, or wherever families and friends traditionally gather. But coronavirus has added a layer of risk to otherwise fun summer activities. It’s hard to relax and enjoy a sunny day when concerned about contracting a potentially deadly virus.

But staying home doesn’t seem like a viable option. It is possible to limit the risk of our favorite summer activities with a little extra vigilance. Dr. Mallika Marshall, a practicing physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, answers some common questions about coronavirus safety this summer.

I know one question that a lot of people have right now — I have it even —  is how the virus reacts to sunlight. Does the heat and the sun help kill the virus on surfaces outside?

So we know that coronaviruses, in general, are sensitive to the heat. They don’t like heat. And studies have also shown that they also don’t like ultraviolet light, which you can get from the sun. However, I don’t want people to have a false sense of security, thinking that if they go out and it’s hot, the sun is shining, that they are definitely protected, because you’re still at increased risk of getting coronavirus if you’re around other people and breathing in their respiratory droplets. So don’t just think because it’s hot and humid outside that you’re protected from the virus.

One outdoor space I know a lot of people spend their summers, that is, of course, the pool. So is it safe to take your family swimming at a public pool where there may or may not be lots of other people?

So, it really depends, because the most important thing, again, is to try to keep distance between you and people who don’t live in your household. So, if you’re going to a crowded public pool, not a great idea. But if you can find a public pool you can go during hours when it’s not that crowded, and you can actually space apart at least six feet, even when you’re in the pool, then that is probably okay. Now, I always want to give a caveat that people who are at higher risk of developing COVID-related complications — people who are older, people with diabetes or other underlying conditions — that even now they probably need to exercise caution, and maybe a public pool is not the best place to be.

And another outdoor space I know a lot of people are spending some time at is the beach and maybe even the lake, if you have time to head out there. So are those locations basically the same general rule of thumb as a swimming pool?

Same general rule. Again, social distancing is really important, wearing a mask if you’re anywhere around other people or passing them by. But I know a lot of people are concerned that maybe you can catch coronavirus from swimming in a pool or a lake or an ocean. That’s not the case. The coronavirus is not transmitted through water. It’s being close to other people that we really worry about.

Alright, Mallika, is there anything else that people should know about summer safety before they are heading out to those maybe crowded swimming locations?

In addition to social distancing, wearing a mask when you’re out and about or passing by other people, making sure that you go with people in your household and not congregate with other people who live outside your household, that you also should be mindful not to share things. You don’t want to share towels with people you don’t live with or utensils or cups, goggles or other beach toys. So make sure you come prepared with your own food, your own drinks, your own recreational activities, and just be mindful of how close you’re getting to other people.

Dr. Mallika Marshall