Celebrate the Fourth of July Safely in the New World of COVID-19

SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July this year, it’s going to look a lot different in the new world of COVID-19.

There will be few parades commemorating Independence Day, many cities and towns around the country have cancelled their patriotic parades and fireworks displays in order to keep crowds from congregating in one place, and there will be fewer large family gatherings and picnics.

“However you choose to celebrate the holiday, it is vitally important to keep safety in mind,” said Dr. Armando Paez, chief of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Medical Center. “While Massachusetts has made great strides in combating COVID-19, the virus remains in the community. So, this Fourth of July weekend and into the near future, you need to maintain social distancing, continue wearing your mask, and practicing good hygiene by washing your hands and not touching your face and eyes.”

But it’s not just the novel coronavirus that is worrying many health and safety officials this Fourth of July.

“People are buying consumer fireworks in twice if not three times the amount they did last year,” said Dana Baiocco, commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Dr. Gerald Beltran, chief of Pre-hospital Disaster Medicine at Baystate Medical Center, understands why fireworks sales are up. “People have been shut in for a while; they want to get outdoors in the nice weather,” he said. “And in the face of public displays of fireworks being cancelled, they are opting illegally to put on their own displays in their backyards.”

Massachusetts declares all types of fireworks illegal, including firecrackers; bottle rockets and sky rockets; aerial repeaters, also known as cakes; single-shot aerials and reloadable aerial tubes; sparklers; party poppers; and snakes.

“As an emergency medicine physician, I am well aware of the devastating injuries — serious burns, blinding, even the amputation of fingers or an entire hand — that can result when fireworks find their way into the hands of youngsters, or even adults who are not professionally trained in their use or not careful,” Beltran said. “Some of these horrific injuries can result in lifelong disabilities and even death. What can be especially troubling to me is adults who put fireworks into the hands of children and do not carefully monitor them. Accidents can occur, and these types of events are completely preventable.”

If a fireworks accident occurs, he suggests seeking medical attention immediately, regardless of the severity of the injury. If one or both eyes are injured, do not rub them, as this can cause further damage. If an injury occurs which causes bleeding, pressure should be applied to control the bleeding, but should be avoided on the area around the eye. Do not use any kind of aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause blood thinning and potentially increase any bleeding that is present. Ointments and medications are not recommended, as they can make the area around the eye slippery and interfere with the doctor’s examination.