New York State Department of Health Encourages New Yorkers to Follow Safety Precautions Memorial Day Weekend

Food and Water Safety, Protection Against Ticks and Mosquitos, and Following Sun Safety Tips Can Help Ensure a Safe Holiday

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 23, 2024) – The New York State Department of Health reminds New Yorkers that as they gather on Memorial Day to honor the people who dedicated their lives to serving this country, to follow useful safety precautions to ensure the day is safe and delightful. Those tips should include safe food preparation, water safety, avoiding tick and mosquito bites, and limiting sun exposure.

"As we honor and reflect on the immense sacrifices of those who died while serving in our military, we also want to make sure that New Yorkers can safely enjoy the Memorial Day holiday weekend," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Many of us will host and attend gatherings with family and friends to welcome the summer and I encourage New Yorkers to follow some simple precautions to ensure a holiday free of emergencies and illness, including hand washing before meal prep, making sure hot food is cooked to the proper temperature and cold foods stay cool, using and reapplying sunscreen when outside, avoiding swimming alone and always supervise children while they are swimming, and wearing protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses."

Food safety starts with making sure hands are clean, especially after handling raw meat and before preparing or serving food. Other food preparation tips include:

  • Wrap raw meat in plastic bags at the market to prevent blood and juices from dripping onto other foods.
  • Refrigerate meat and other perishable food promptly and avoid keeping them at room temperature.
  • Marinate food in a refrigerator and avoid tasting or re-using the marinade after adding meat.
  • Avoid placing ready-to-eat food on an unwashed surface with raw meat or seafood.
  • Wash cutting boards and counters immediately after using them to prepare raw meat or seafood.
  • Use clean utensils when handling cooked meat.
  • Avoid tasting or eating raw or undercooked meat.

Additional precautions for handling meat include cooking it to the proper temperature to avoid illness and even death from germs such as E-coli and salmonella, which can be present in undercooked meats such as chicken and hamburgers. Ideally, a meat thermometer should be used to check the inner temperature of these foods, by inserting it into the thickest part of the meat:

  • Chicken - 165oF
  • Hamburger - 160oF
  • Pork - 150oF
  • Hot dogs - 140oF
  • Leftovers - 165oF
  • Eggs - 145oF
  • Other foods - 140oF

While the juices may run clear in cooked meat, that is not a reliable test to assure meat is properly cooked and safe to eat. The internal temperature should always be checked before serving cooked meat.

More food safety tips are available here and barbecue tips are available here.

The Department provides safe swimming advice for New Yorkers who plan to enjoy beaches and pools during the holiday weekend. Swimming and other water activities are a great form of exercise and a way to cool off on hot days. Public facilities are the best place to cool off because they have the most safeguards in place to protect adults and children. If swimming or boating in other waters, following these simple directions can greatly reduce the chances of harm. Swimming safety tips include:

  • Never swim alone—drowning can happen quickly and quietly.
  • Always supervise children and keep young children within arm's length when in and around water, even if lifeguards are present. Life jackets and swimming aids don't take the place of adult supervision.
  • Always wear a life jacket while boating and avoid drugs and alcohol while swimming and boating as they slow reaction time and impair judgment.
  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and change diapers in the bathhouse.
  • Stay out of the water if you have an open wound or feel sick.
  • Wear sunscreen and be aware of extreme heat or fatigue.
  • Keep toilet seats down and always supervise young children around buckets, in bathtubs and other household water. Drowning can happen in as little as inches of water.

Another measure to protect against serious illness over the holiday and during the summer is to take precautions to avoid being bitten by ticks and mosquitos. Blacklegged (deer) ticks can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in New York, and other diseases. Mosquito bites in New York can result in infection with diseases like West Nile virus.

The optimal way to prevent tick and mosquito bites and possible infection is to take precautions, especially when hiking, working, or spending time outdoors or in wooded or grassy areas:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535, and follow label instructions.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Check for ticks often while outdoors and brush them away before they attach.
  • Perform a full body check multiple times during the day, as well as at the end of the day, to ensure that no ticks are attached.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
  • Shower soon after coming indoors. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
  • Take steps to control mosquitoes. Use screens on windows and doors and turn over, empty, and scrub outdoor items that may hold water such as buckets, planters, pools, and birdbaths at least once a week.

The Department has a Guide for Preventing Lyme Disease available here. Information about insect repellants and videos about tick removal are available here.

As warmer, sunnier weather moves in for the summer, the Department also recommends that people of all skin tones follow sun safety guidance. These include using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher applied to dry skin at least 15 minutes before going outdoors, and again after swimming or perspiring, and wearing protective clothing when you are outside. While some physical characteristics can put an individual at higher risk of skin cancer, such as a lighter natural skin color, anyone can get skin cancer. The risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, doubles for individuals with a history of five or more sunburns over their lifetime. And while melanoma occurs less frequently among people of color, when it occurs, it is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Information about increasing the adoption of sun safety policies and practices can be found here.