By Oliver Lazenby
Hunker down, but go outside; it’s going to be a beautiful week. Snohomish County executive Dave Somers concluded his talk at a March 16 coronavirus press conference with that message.
While it seems contradictory, it can be possible to go outside for a walk or bike ride while still practicing social distancing, but a local epidemiologist said to keep a few things in mind.
“Generally speaking, I don’t think anyone should be worried about riding a bike or going on a hike or things like that,” said Dr. Steve Bennett, an assistant professor of community health at Western Washington University.
Bennett lives in Ferndale and through the new coronavirus outbreak he has been going out for walks with his family to a nearby playground. While being outside is generally safe, they still try to keep their distance from people – if others show up at the playground, they might leave and walk somewhere else, he said. They also wash their hands before leaving home and as soon as they get back.
“The biggest thing is making sure you’re not going out in groups,” said Bennett, who researches the epidemiology and ecology of infectious disease. “I would say stick to your household or whoever you’re already in regular contact with.”
There’s less risk of transmitting the new coronavirus outside because the air isn’t stagnant and you’re less likely to come into close contact with others. The spread of the new coronavirus seems heavily driven by proximity and close contact, Bennett said.
While it’s relatively be safe to ride in a car to the trailhead with people who you’re already isolated with, it’s not a good idea to get into a car with people from other households.
“If you’re in a confined space and you’re all sharing air, transmission can happen much easier,” Bennett said. “Just make sure you’re not mixing it with people you don’t normally mix with.”