Experts Want Us to Go Outside

For months scientists have warned us to stay inside as much as possible. However, their understanding of COVID-19 is ever-growing. And, as they get more information, they have to adjust their advice. It is so frustrating to have figured out our schedule and then change it. But, news this week is actually heartening: only two out of 1,245 known cases of COVID-19 were transmitted outdoors. After months of being told the safety place was our home, it seems that just being out is quite safe.

Nearly half of Americans feel that COVID-19 and the lengths we are going to to protect ourselves are harming our mental health. If you’re feeling stir-crazy, you aren’t alone. Many states are either keeping people locked down (which experts think might be too much) or fully reopening (which might be dangerous.) Experts are saying we need to relax some things and strengthen others.

We need to get out more, and we need more people wearing masks. People are being shamed online for going out too much, or not wearing a mask. However, some people can’t wear masks because of medical conditions. If most of us wore masks, we’d be protecting those who can’t. Opening public spaces, like parks, and keeping movie theaters closed. People can meet in parks with relative safety as long as they aren’t sitting right next to each other and sharing food or drinks.

The full lockdown made sense weeks ago,” wrote Dr. Marty Makary. “But the situation is changing, and more data on the virus are now available to inform our next steps.”

He was a big proponent of the lockdowns, and still feels they were the right call, based on the quickly rising cases and how little we knew about the virus. Now we know how to limit the spread, masks, handwashing, staying six feet away and not touching our faces. He believes it will be a long time before places with high risk—movie theaters, cruise ships or arcades — will be safe to reopen. But, getting into outdoor spaces would be relatively safe.

Some places are already trying to make these changes. Cincinnati is closing many streets to turn them into outdoor dining spaces so that restaurants can reopen. And cities around the country are doing the same. People need to be able to get out and enjoy their lives. Yes, we need to be safe, but we’ve been sheltering-in-place for too long.

Cities around the world are widening sidewalks to help people socially distance themselves. They are adding bike lanes and changing the pedestrian “walk/don’t walk” signs work to remove buttons. They are adding door handles that open with elbows instead of hands and benches with plexiglass dividers. And, these changes could stick. Towns may close down some streets and turn them into open spaces for everyone to enjoy now — and not revert later. These changes may make places more accessible to people with underlying health conditions. These measures meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 could possibly help fight future flu seasons.

We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out. But, in the meantime, it’s nice to know that we aren’t risking our lives by simply stepping outside.
May 15, 2020
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