STAYING SAFE IN THE SUN, SAND AND SURF

(HALIBURTON COUNTY) – Residents are being reminded that it’s not business as usual if they head out to enjoy the sun, sand and surf this summer.

This week, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit begins its water testing program in Haliburton County. As it does, local residents and visitors are reminded that it’s important to take steps to remain safe, both in and out of the water.

“It’s not just E.coli and other bacteria in the water we need to watch for, but also potential exposure to COVID-19,” says Bernie Mayer, Health Protection Manager with the HKPR District Health Unit. “We can still enjoy a day at the beach, as it’s great for our wellbeing to be active and outdoors. The key thing is to know before you go what’s needed to stay safe.”

Prevention starts by checking with the Health Unit to see if a beach is safe for swimming.

Between now and Labour Day, the Health Unit will test local beaches for E.coli levels in the water. Results will be updated every Thursday/Friday on the Health Unit website (www.hkpr.on.ca).

Warning signs are posted at local beaches as well to indicate to users if the water is safe. Information is also available by calling 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.

This year, the Health Unit is moving to a three-colour system of reporting beach results:

• Green means a beach is open/safe for swimming.

• Yellow is a warning that high counts of bacteria may be present in the water and swimming is not advised at this time as it may lead to illness. If people choose to swim, they should avoid dunking their heads or swallowing water.

• Red means a beach is closed due to high levels of bacteria that make it unsafe for swimming.

Mayer also encourages people to check with their local municipality about the status of beaches beforehand. Some may be closed this summer due to the pandemic. Others may have COVID-19 restrictions in place such as limits on the number of vehicles or beachgoers allowed on the beach in order to maintain physical distancing.

“Be patient and follow directions on signs or from municipal staff present at the beach,” Mayer says. “If you arrive at a beach and find it’s crowded making it difficult to stay 2 metres (6 feet) apart, have a backup plan to do another fun activity.”

The Health Unit also offers these additional prevention tips on beach use during COVID-19:

• Stay home if you or any member of your family is sick.

• Visit a beach closer to your home to reduce travel and the risk of spreading the virus elsewhere.

• Bring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to use at the beach, especially if soap and water are unavailable.

• Use items like tents, umbrellas, blankets, pool noodles or hula hoops to help keep your distance from others on the beach. These items can be especially good visual reminders for children.

• Avoid swallowing water, spitting or spouting while swimming.