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COVID-19: Still golfing? Here are tips to make it, not safe, but safer

Golfers play on a course in The Villages on Thursday evening. Photo: Joe Byrnes
Golfers play on a course in The Villages on Thursday evening. Photo: Joe Byrnes

Florida's stay-at-home order was bad news for pickleball players in The Villages. All their courts are now closed.

But the golfers are still out there. And the Florida State Golf Association says the order allows it  ... as long as it’s consistent with social distancing.

So what can those golfers do to be safe? 90.7’s Joe Byrnes took that question to Jerne Shapiro, who teaches epidemiology at the University of Florida.


WMFE: Ms. Shapiro, I think we should start with a kind of a basic question. Are there some people who, if possible, should not be going out at all?

SHAPIRO: So there are some folks in our community that are going to be at higher risk for complications, more severe complications from COVID-19. And these folks really are safer at home. So these will include people that are immunocompromised, people that have underlying comorbidities, and we're learning more about what are some of those comorbidities that have higher risks. For example, diabetes and cardiovascular disease tend to be two of the higher risks that we're seeing right now. And also just anyone that is in the 60 and up age group. So our elderly population are also at increased risk for higher complications.

WMFE: OK, if somebody wants to play golf and do it safely these days. Can they do it? And if so, how?

SHAPIRO: So I don't want to use the word safely. I think we need to use the word safer. So if you can, because there's no safe way to really be around other people and make sure that you're 100% protected. So a safer way to go out and engage in physical activities as well as golf might include things that are keeping six feet away from anyone that you're with and doing small things like, if you're going to rent a golf cart, bring a disinfectant wipe with you if the club isn't already disinfecting them. Wipe down your steering wheel, wipe down the seat that it's on and make sure that you're allowing the contact time for the product to do its job. If it's wet sometimes that doesn't mean that it stopped working. Another way is to only touch your ball, Don't pick up somebody else's ball because somebody else handled that and they might have sneezed or coughed into their hand and contaminated the ball,

WMFE: The USGA and some clubs have new rules so golfers don't have to touch the flag pole, reach into the hole, rake the bunkers or hand over score cards. Could that make a difference?

SHAPIRO: I think all of those are thoughtful ways to help prevent further spread. In public health we call each one of those objects, a fomite. So it's an object that can be contaminated with the germ, and possibly pass it on to somebody else.

WMFE: What are your three top tips for safer golfing, if you were to go out golfing now?

SHAPIRO: Top tips for safer golfing would be to stay six feet away from all people To make sure that you have good hand washing skills and abilities, but also bring hand sanitizer with you. If you cough and sneeze while you are out, please take the time and sanitize your hands for your health and the health of the fellow players around you. And lastly, I would say is to be mindful of touching the object and then touching, after you touch those objects, touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.