Two boys running with a flag on the beach

Memorial Day is an important time of year for many reasons. It's a time to honor the sacrifice that many military members and their families have made for the country's safety.

For many, it's also an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones and celebrate the arrival of summer. It's not uncommon to fill Memorial Day weekend with parades to honor the fallen, family trips and backyard barbecues.

While we can still honor this important day, the way we celebrate will look different this year. Here is what you need to keep in mind this Memorial Day and some ideas for how to celebrate in the age of coronavirus.

Know Your Local Regulations

Before making any Memorial Day plans, familiarize yourself with your local county regulations. Many parts of Maryland have entered Phase I of reopening, but other counties have chosen to continue the stay-at-home order to mitigate novel coronavirus spread. Learn more about current regulations in your county.

It's critical to continue following local regulations, which are designed to maintain declines in coronavirus hospitalizations and, ultimately, save lives. Acting against your local regulations not only violates the law but could also cause a large outbreak of the disease.

Reversing our progress as a state could potentially put us back under a statewide stay-at-home order, so it's important for everyone to be patient and continue to stay safe during this challenging time.

How to Celebrate Memorial Day Safely

Celebrations may look a little different than they used to, but there are many ways that you can honor Memorial Day while still taking steps to prevent coronavirus.

Honor Fallen Loved Ones

Visit cemeteries and place flowers or other memorials on the graves of loved ones. As of May 5, 2020, the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs has opened all state veteran cemeteries to visitors. However, cemetery administrative buildings, shelters, and restrooms remain closed.

You can also honor loved ones in other ways at home, like participating in their favorite activity, cooking their favorite food or watching their favorite show.

Neighborhood Car Parades

The Memorial Day parades of the past aren't safe at this time, but that doesn't mean that you can't find a way to bring some joy to this important day. Some neighborhoods and groups are even organizing socially distanced parades where families drive around in their cars decorated with American flags, patriotic slogans and other signs of support.

Avoid Gatherings

Gatherings are still highly discouraged. It's possible to not show any coronavirus symptoms and spread it to others. If you must gather and your county isn't under a stay-at-home order, please:

  • Keep it under 10 people in compliance with state guidelines.
  • Avoid visiting elderly relatives or others at high risk of severe disease since you could unknowingly transmit the virus to them.
  • Don't share objects. Everyone should bring their own food and drinks.
  • Consider wearing masks to help further protect one another.

Practice other prevention measures like washing your hands frequently, not touching your face, and staying six feet apart.

Get Outside

If you decide to have a gathering under 10 people, stay outdoors. Evidence so far suggests that the chances of coronavirus transmission are lower when you're outside.

Try a picnic outdoors where you can sit at least six feet from others or enjoy a distanced chat around a fire pit. Even if you are only celebrating with people you live with, there are numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors without jeopardizing your safety or the safety of others.

Go Swimming

Swimming outside is a great way to get some exercise and kick-off summer. If you happen to have a backyard pool, take advantage of it. Pool water is treated with chlorine and other chemicals, making it unlikely that coronavirus will survive in the water. Community or shared pools may not be as safe, due to crowds that can gather at these locations.

Use Caution at the Beach

When it comes to swimming in the ocean, the science gets murkier. There isn't evidence of coronavirus traveling in ocean water yet, but we still have a lot to learn about the virus.

It's possible that ocean water contaminated with feces, which have been shown to carry coronavirus, could project the virus on shore through water droplets thrown into the air by ocean waves. The chances of this occurring are unlikely.

The larger concern is the crowds on public beaches. Going for a walk or run on the beach is a good way to cope with stress if you can keep your distance from others.

If you decide to pull out some beach chairs and stay on the beach for a while, ensure that you can keep at least six feet of distance from others. Wearing a mask can also keep you from unknowingly spreading the virus.

Enjoy a Cookout

Hosting a small cookout or crab feast with people you live with can be an enjoyable way to spend Memorial Day. If you plan to cook, try going grocery shopping early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds or get your groceries delivered.

Not a cook? Consider ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant. You'll not only get to enjoy delicious food but also support a local business that you love.