COLUMBIA, S.C. — Many are excited to get outside and spend time with family and friends over Memorial Day weekend, but health officials say it’s still important to practice social distancing.

"I know we are all excited that is it Memorial Day weekend," said Dr. Anna-Kathryn Burch, Pediatric Infections Disease Physician at Prisma Health Children's Hospital - Midlands. 

This holiday weekend is different than ever before, but Burch said there are still ways to enjoy the weekend while protecting yourself from COVID-19.

"We want to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather, which we all should," Burch said. "Getting out and being with family and friends is going to make us all feel better. It's going to make our mental health better. We can get some exercise and all those great things, but we have to remember that COVID-19 is still going on."

Burch said continuing to practice social distancing and wearing a mask in public are still some of the best ways to defend yourself from the virus.

"I think that people think that because tourist attractions are opening and we can go get our hair cut now and go shopping that COVID-19 is over, but that's not the case," Burch said. "Things are opening and that's great, but we have to be mindful that social distancing needs to continue to occur."

Many will find themselves hosting or attending a BBQ this weekend and, if that's your plan, Burch has a few tips for you.

"Get out and enjoy the sunshine, hang out with family and friends, but make sure the numbers are small. Try to keep it under ten," Burch said.

She also suggests bringing your own food and not having anything set up buffet style, as well as using throw away utensils.            

"I know a lot of people are concerned about going to the pool or going to the beach," Burch said.

If you are in the water this weekend, Burch suggests still practicing social distancing. And if you're at the beach, find a spot away from others. 

"I can say that your risk of getting COVID-19 is extremely low if you're outdoors and practicing social distancing, so you should feel safe if you are following directions," Burch said.

Burch said she hopes people will adhere to these suggestions while enjoying their weekend.