Can I Visit the Park While Social Distancing?

June 3, 2020  |  nature, NRPA, pandemic, recreation, youth
A lonely park bench somewhere
A lonely park bench somewhere (source: Pixabay)

A New York Times article covered an issue on many Americans’ minds. That is, can we exercise outside while still social distancing? Health professionals and scientists weighed in to give us the answers to these questions. Contingent on your state government not closing your local parks, you can take certain precautions to still exercise outside to minimize your risks of spreading and contracting COVID-19.

Keeping a distance of at least 6 feet is imperative. We should not rely on surfaces, such as water fountains, playgrounds, and benches, among other things, being sanitized and thus refrain from using them. It is not yet definitively known whether COVID-19 remains on our shoes, but we are suggested to take them off before entering our residence. Afterwards, we are encouraged to immediately wash our hands using proper technique.

As of May 22, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that we wear cloth masks while out in our community. (Follow the link to learn how you can make your own cloth mask from common home materials.)

NRPA released a statement last month outlining recommendations for safe use of parks. One notable example is their recommendation to, “while on trails, warn other users of their presence and as they pass, and step aside to let others pass.” Also, REI released an informative blog post on the matter. For the most comprehensive guidance on parks and recreational facilities as a participant and employee, we are encouraged to follow the CDC’s guidance.

The CDC encourages us to stay physically active. This is important, because physical activity is not only good for our body but our mental health as well. The CDC does an excellent job of simplifying what we need to know when going outside. They do this by outlining a few “Dos” and “Don’ts.”

We should visit local parks but only do so if we keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others. We should not visit local parks if we are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19 a short time ago, and we should not use communal features (i.e., playgrounds, hot tubs, water playgrounds, etc.). Read the full list for more information. Alternatively, Vox released an informative video regarding the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 while outside.

Consequences from not following this advice can be severe. It is well established that individuals can carry COVID-19 with no symptoms. So, it is important that we all remain vigilant while keeping our social distance. The outcome could be dire, where we unknowingly spread the virus to a vulnerable individual or maybe become infected ourselves. Even though the CDC and others recommend that we remain physically active, we should take the precautions outlined in this post seriously to reduce the burden on our hospitals and healthcare professionals.