By now, everyone knows Governor Inslee has extended Stay Home, Stay Healthy through May 4. Non-essential workplaces and schools have closed. We are staying home and using social distancing when we need to venture out for staples like groceries. But the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order does not ban all outdoor activities. We know getting exercise and fresh air is healthy—strengthening our bodies and brightening our moods. But how do you safely exercise outside in Skagit County?
First, it is important to maintain social distancing, also called “physical distancing.” This means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your household. As you have surely heard, you should stay at least 6 feet away from other people, avoid gathering in groups, and do your best to stay out of crowded places.
We are lucky to live in Skagit. Our county is filled with true gems – open space, walking trails, and great parks. But before you go out, you should be aware that some parks are closed or partially closed. At this time, Skagit County parks are open for hiking. Again a reminder – when hiking, make sure that there is space for social distancing. Picnic shelters, sports courts, play structures, and other facilities at all Skagit County parks are closed.
Brian Adams, the Skagit County Parks and Recreation Director has the following advice for Skagit County residents looking to get outside:
- A good option for a walk or a hike is a park or a trail within walking distance from your home.
- If you don’t have a park nearby, you should consider walking on your neighborhood streets and sidewalks.
- If that is not an option, Adams recommends you visit some of our large open spaces where you can see people approaching in advance and be prepared to maintain social distancing
- If people do drive to trails or parks, they should avoid stops or using restrooms in order to minimize physical contact during your trip.
Adams said that Skagit County residents seem to be doing a good job so far: “Most people, more than 90% are complying with the closures. From what I’m seeing people are doing a good job.”
Adams said they haven’t seen large crowds yet at any county parks, but that traffic at some popular trails is more in line with July than the usual April traffic. “The kind of things you see in on the news with crowds and problems in more urban areas like Seattle’s Green Lake — Skagit County hasn’t experienced anything like that,” Adams said.
Here are some outside dos and don’ts to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Prepare before you visit: confirm park is open, including bathroom facilities, bring anything you need with you
- Visit parks and trails that are close to your home
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others (“social distancing”)
- Don’t visit parks if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19
- Don’t visit crowded parks
- Don’t use playgrounds
- Don’t participate in organized activities or sports
One other important piece of staying safe is avoiding injuries while you are outside. Our hospitals and first responders are under increased pressure. It is up to us to preserve these limited resources for those most in need. And now is not the time that you want to go to the Emergency Department! That means don’t try out your child’s hover board or tear down the mountain on a bicycle that you have not ridden for years. Be sure to follow common sense safety procedures — bring extra water on a hike, wear your bike helmet, obey rules of the road, and tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
In short, outdoor exercise, when following these dos and don’ts, keeps you safe and healthy. Fresh air can ward off cabin fever and brighten your day. Just be safe out there!