Guide to Getting Outdoors During the COVID-19 Outbreak
It’s the first day of Spring in the U.S. (and a beautifully warm day here in Asheville) but that has been majorly overshadowed by the Coronavirus pandemic that is quickly spreading through the country & the world.
It’s definitely a crazy time to be alive right now – and there’s a flurry of information to sift through right now about all of this. Since the shop is closed down temporarily and we’ve got a little extra time on our hands we’ve decided to sift through some of that information for you – at least as it relates to getting outside.
Let’s start with the basics…
Should I go outdoors?
It is safe to go outside right now as long as you practice the recommended social distancing protocol of staying at least 6 feet away from others. Exercising outdoors is a good idea if you are healthy and have some extra time on your hands. Exercise will keep your immune system strong & elevate your mood during what may be a prolonged period of social isolation.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, follow the CDC guidelines by staying home and contacting a doctor. They can provide further help over the phone and may not recommend that you visit a hospital immediately. If you are elderly or have a weakened immune system it is probably best to avoid public spaces as much as possible, but if you have a porch or backyard you may like to take advantage of some beautiful spring weather!
How does COVID-19 spread?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus primarily spreads through person-to-person contact.
Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The CDC also advises that the virus is able to live on surfaces (for example, a counter that someone sneezed or coughed on) and you may be able to contract the virus through touching one of these surfaces and then touching your own face, eyes, nose, or mouth. This is why it is being recommended not to touch your face.
What types of outdoor activities are safe to participate in?
You should practice low-contact activities by yourself or in small groups of people you already live with. It is not recommended to "hang out" with your friends & neighbors. This isn't the time to get together to play a game of basketball, but you could safely play a few rounds of Disc Golf with your family members or roommates.
Some activities we recommend are: biking, hiking, running, paddling, slacklining, & yoga.
Where should I go?
The easiest way to get outside may be as simple as stepping out onto your porch! Long periods of isolation & low activity can take a toll on us – physically, mentally, & emotionally. Even if you’re not up for a big outdoor adventure, try to spend at least a few minutes each day in the sun soaking up some vitamin D.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous then you can go for a quick bike ride or jog around the neighborhood. If you’re willing to venture a bit further from home, this is the time to take advantage of your local trails & outdoor infrastructure! If you live in the Asheville area you’re fortunate to have an abundance of options. Please note that many of our trail parking lots in Asheville and elsewhere have been closed. It is recommended to visit areas that you can walk or bike to, and minimize travel by car that is not essential.
The National Park Service has recently waived all entrance fees at national parks that are remaining open during the coronavirus pandemic under direction of the US Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” said Bernhardt in a Wednesday news release.
Explore Asheville offers a pretty great list of National and State Parks near Asheville.
Wherever you go, remember to be mindful and courteous of others & their personal space and always remember to leave no trace. Especially now, please don’t leave your used tissues on the trail. Pack it in and pack it out!
Please keep in mind that some public facilities may be closed as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Research this before you head out.
Where shouldn’t I go?
We do not recommend taking a cross-country trip right now – especially on an airplane. Stay local and take advantage of what is nearby. Unnecessary long-distance travel is not advisable at the current moment. Try not to pick the most crowded outdoor areas, and if you do end up somewhere with more people than you expected, remember to keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet. Avoid touching surfaces in public spaces as much as possible including door knobs & railings.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is recommending that hikers postpone their section-hikes or thru-hikes. Visit their website for more updates and information about this.
Some public facilities are closed out of an abundance of caution. For example, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center is currently closed to the public until further notice. Again, be sure to research this before heading out & be prepared for unexpected closures of public spaces like bathrooms.
The Bottom Line:
It is safe to go outside right now as long as you practice the recommended social distancing protocol of staying at least 6 feet away from others. It’s a good idea to bring some hand sanitizer with you if possible and avoid adventuring to the most crowded areas. Stay local! This isn’t the best time to hike the AT but you can definitely go on a run or a bike ride in your neighborhood and head out to your local trails. If you are elderly or have a weakened immune system it may be best for you to stay at home. If you are experiencing symptoms and believe you may be a carrier of the virus, please follow CDC guidelines by staying home and contacting a doctor.