When going to the movies, a sporting event or the zoo are crossed off your list of fun pastimes, what can you do during the COVID-19 pandemic while practicing the principles of responsible social distancing? Most importantly, we are all responsible for how this plays out in the coming days, weeks and months. It’s truly best to just stay home.
Plain and simple, stay home, be bored. It’s okay. This, too, shall pass.
Editor’s Note: As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds in Minnesota, certain details in our stories about the impact of the virus may become outdated within hours, days or weeks of our publication. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in Minnesota, please visit the websites for the Office of Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan or the Minnesota Department of Health.
But when the knife’s edge of boredom cuts too close, we start to wonder about drifting outside. We see others strolling or biking together in the great, still chilly outdoors – and we begin to convince ourselves that it’s high time we leave the house, too.
BUT IS IT A RESPONSIBLE ACT TO BE OUTSIDE?
I had a lot of fun making this video, but should I have given in to the urge? Should I have ventured out to meet Tim and Jay at the Acorn Park disc golf course? In giving myself permission, have I perpetuated the problem of thinking, “Meh, I feel fine, it’s a nice day, I’m just going to head out with my camera and make a video”?
But as of the date this video and article were created, the CDC has not recommended that we cease all outdoor activities. And yet, I wondered if there were certain risks I – and others – should be aware of as we pull on a jacket and walk out the front door. To dive a little deeper, I typed “being outside during coronavirus” into my search bar. Surely. Google would point to the answers to my questions. Sure enough, the second result was a story from NPR.
Filed by Laurel Wamsley and Maria Godoy, the article states the following recommendation around being outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, “…unless local guidelines instruct otherwise, fresh air and outdoor exercise are allowed – though it’s important to keep some distance between yourself and others.”
Since experts so far believe that the coronavirus spreads through the transmission of respiratory droplets that pass between people who come into close contact with one another, they advise outdoor-goers to stay anywhere from six to 10 feet apart. After all, the outdoors beckons with better airflow, making it less likely that those virus-carrying droplets will spread from one person to the next, says Albert Ko, an epidemiologist at Yale.
“So if you’re going out and you’re hiking or biking or running and you’re not within, say, six feet or 10 feet of another person, I would consider that a healthy, safe practice,” Ko says.
Since an epidemiologist from Yale has indicated that being outdoors and maintaining a proper social distance is still considered to be a safe practice, I decided to experiment with the concept of being social, distance and outside at the same time.
TAKING A BREAK EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE
When the COVID-19 crisis started to take a firm hold in Minnesota – and I was relegated to working from my dining room table – I noticed something unexpected: There were a lot more people outside than I was used to seeing out my windows. A walk outside to feel the breeze, to listen to a cardinal sing and to hear children laugh can make you forget that life as we know it has suddenly become topsy-turvy. Though we all need to be content with sheltering in place, being outside in an effort to forget about COVID-19 for a few minutes offers the perfect conduit to something – anything – that seems normal.
WHAT IS DISC GOLF?
At any given time as I walk through Acorn Park, my neighborhood green space, I see roving bands of people walking through the woods and savanna. Some of the people have backpacks loaded with colorful plastic discs, some with just one or two discs in-hand, all of them seemingly having a good time. In other words, disc golf is a very social activity.
Smaller in diameter and more dense, the discs are different from traditional Frisbees. Like golf clubs, there are different discs for different scenarios. Need to get down a wide open fairway on a par 4? Pull out your driver. Need to fade around a tree? There’s a disc for that. Need to try to chip it in from 40 feet? There’s a disc for that, too. Need to drop in a putt from 8 feet? Try your putter disc. Or, just hack away with one or two discs. As far as I can tell, there’s no wrong way to play disc golf.
All in all, golf and its scrappier cousin disc golf share some joys and frustrations – but the biggest difference is in the cost of each sport. After all, you can usually play on a disc golf course for free (or for a minimal park fee), and there’s no need to set up a tee time. You just show up and start throwing.
As long as you’re outside, tromping through the park, you’re doing it right. But I have one recommendation for the times we’re living in now: Just make sure you keep those high-fives and fist bumps to yourself.
COMING SOON: GEOCACHING
What are some socially responsible outdoor activities that you have found enjoyable during this time of social distancing?
Like so many Minnesotans, Twin Cities PBS Producer Luke Heikkila found himself suddenly camped out at his dining-room-table-turned-desk after a work-from-home mandate. But then he realized something: His neighbors were spending a lot of time outside. So he decided to check in with them to see how they’re faring in this time of COVID-19.
Twin Cities PBS Producer Luke Heikkila is also following the experience of a Minnesota family experiencing the unknowns of at-home quarantine after they returned from a vacation in England and France. Don’t miss the first installment and second installment in a series about their experience.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving issue in Minnesota, Twin Cities PBS is producing a weekly show, Coronavirus: An Almanac Special, where we share practical information from trusted medical sources so all Minnesotans know the steps to prepare for the coronavirus.