Lockdown measures put the safety of going outdoors in question

It isn’t hard to perceive that in the wake of a global pandemic, many state governments are urging their citizens to stay at home and are closing most businesses. As a recreational activity, many people choose to go on outside strolls, runs or bike rides in an attempt to escape the locked cage that their homes have become and to curb boredom. 

Many states like New York, which has been hit harder by the disease relative to other states have implemented programs that allow people to leave their homes only if they need to get food, take care of a relative or go to an essential job as long as they follow social distancing recommendations. Illinois has embraced a similar plan and allows its citizens to leave their homes to go get groceries, pick up prescriptions and go for walks, among other daily duties. 

“I feel like you need to go out or else you’ll lose your mind,” senior Bridget Helmstetter said. “I think as long as you maintain distance you’re okay to go outside.”

In order to take a look at whether or not time spent outdoors is safe, we need to first understand how Covid-19 spreads. According to the CDC, Covid-19 is believed to be spread through water droplets, which can result from an infected person talking, coughing or sneezing. Assuming that you are not in close proximity to an infected person, walking, running and biking is safer than other activities. 

“Running and walking outside are some of the safest activities people can do right now, assuming they follow the actual social distancing guidelines,” Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, chairman of the department of medicine and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau told CNBC

With the CDC’s social distancing recommendations at play here, mainly to stay six feet apart, to avoid large gatherings and to stay out of crowded areas, the seemingly safe act of going outside is questionable. We often find ourselves crossing paths with other walkers or runners and find ourselves in the path of their breath. Not to mention that popular walking venues such as parks and forest preserves, are areas where we frequently come in close proximity to strangers in arguably “crowded” environments. However, it seems as long as we stay smart about how we go outside, the risk of contracting Covid-19 is not much higher than if we stay at home. 

“I think it’s totally fine to go out. It can be a source of happiness for people considering we are locked in,” Helmstetter said. “As long as you’re doing the distancing, it seems safe.” 

An important factor to consider when going outside is your proximity to other people. Making sure you stay at least six feet away from others at all times and avoiding going to crowded places is imperative. Additionally, it might be a good idea to carry some hand sanitizer or wipes and wear something over your face to keep water droplets from entering your mouth and respiratory system. 

“Generally speaking, germs dissipate very quickly outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you can give up distancing and other Covid-19 prevention measures outdoors,” Glatt said. “If you’re running by yourself and you’re running in an area where you’re not encountering other people, it’s very healthy.”