You may have heard about recent studies that suggest that our social distancing measures appear to be making a difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in King County. That’s great news, but it comes with an important caution: if we are to succeed in decreasing and delaying the outbreak peak (in other words, flattening the curve), we must continue to practice social distancing, even when outdoors. The threat of a rebound of illness that could endanger people and overwhelm the healthcare system remains for the foreseeable future if we let up too soon.
Staying at home is still necessary, and it’s also hard on everyone. Getting outside for fresh air, exercise, and perhaps even to restore a sense of hope is important. As long as you’re following proper social distancing, getting outside and getting exercise is great for your mental, emotional and physical health.
Here are some considerations so that you can make informed decisions in staying safe while getting outdoors:
- Stay 6’ feet apart, at all times. When you’re doing outdoor activities, go solo or with people from your own household, not in groups. If you’ve gotten outdoors and the area is too crowded to easily maintain 6’ distancing, look for another place to be. It’s up to each of us to make personal decisions and sacrifices to make social distancing successful.
- Obey rules and laws, and encourage the same of your friends and family. In order to prevent crowding, many outdoor recreational areas are temporarily closed. All King County Parks and trails are temporarily closed. City of Seattle Parks has closed many facilities and amenities – you can read more about what’s open and what’s not on their blog. It may be tempting to jump a fence or ignore a “closed” sign. Please, don’t. Social distancing only works if all of us participate. You can set a good example and help save lives by following the rules and encouraging the same of others.
- Make space for others if you have more outdoor access. If every King County resident heads to our destination parks at once, it will be very difficult to maintain healthy 6-foot distancing. So, now’s the time to think about your privilege relative to others – do you live in a walkable neighborhood with sidewalks and greenery? Do you have access to a private backyard? Do you live near a less popular neighborhood park? Then maybe you can afford to avoid destination parks and trails. This leaves more space for folks who don’t have these resources and to families with kids who need lots of space to run and play.
- Now’s not the time to try something risky. Our hospitals, healthcare system and first responders are under pressure right now. It’s up to all of us to preserve these limited resources for those most in need. So, reconsider risky trips and activities, and be sure to follow standard safety procedures — bring extra water, wear your helmet, obey rules of the road, and tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
- Think about how you’re getting to the outdoors. We’re encouraging everyone to avoid public transportation and to limit the number of trips you need to make for necessities like gas. So, look for outdoor activities that you can walk or bike to. The journey can be a great part of your time outside!
We have been so impressed at the amazing effort and sacrifice everyone is putting forth to stay at home to protect ourselves and our community’s health. Keep it up, and also enjoy a little sunshine.