Ultimate isolation


Fat-tired cyclists practice social distancing in front of the Knik Glacier/Craig Medred photo

Some good news on the COVID-19 front for Alaskans who love the outdoors.

Both the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the state Department of Health and Social Services now say a state ban on non-essential travel does not apply to those heading off for wild places as long as they abide by other pandemic safety standards:

  • Travel alone or with family – no carpooling – to wherever it is you plan to recreate.
  • Make no stops along the way that bring you in contact with other people.
  • And maintain social distancing – a separation of at least six feet – from others once you park your motor vehicle and head out.

Recreation in the time of COVID-13 has been a hotly debated topic around the globe. The city of Paris recently banned walking or running during the daytime although the French government has encouraged such activities as long as people stay within a kilometer of their homes.

Getting out was considered an “essential purpose,” France 24 reported Saturday, “But as sunny days arrived over the weekend, large groups of Parisians were seen running, walking and congregating in groups, even as police issued fines for lockdown violations and hospitals struggled to cope with the influx of patients.”

The goal of the Paris restrictions is to keep people far away from each other to slow the spread of the disease and thus prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients.

Rising death tolls

Italy – where COVID-19 has now killed almost 18,000 people – and Spain – where the death toll is nearing 15,000 – have sharply restricted physical activity.

Cycling is now banned in both countries. Italians are allowed to exercise if they do it by themselves close to home, but in Spain people are only allowed out to walk dogs, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Most other European countries have imposed restrictions on gatherings along with closing bars, restaurants and public meeting places, but have not gone as far as Italy, Spain and France in restricting human-powered movements.

In the U.S. restrictions vary state by state.

Minnesota has declared “outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing” essential needs and allowed them.

Washington state has done the opposite. It closed hunting and fishing sites until at least May 4, and in line with Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says “all wildlife areas and water access areas remain closed through May 4. The extension applies to all camping on state lands, boat launches, and day-use recreation areas.”

California closed marine fisheries, citing the inability of people to meet social-distance requirements aboard charter boats, and is now considering a ban on freshwater fishing in parts of the state “in response to worries that anglers will spread COVID-19 to rural communities,” the Sacramento Bee reported.

Stay away

Similar concerns have been raised about urban cyclists, surfers, hikers and other recreationists spreading the disease to rural areas. Californians are being encouraged to restrict their recreation to their own counties.

A new order for the San Francisco Bay area “specifies that travel into and out of your home county is only allowed for essential activities, and exercise is on that list,” The Mercury News reported.

“(But) a health spokesperson for Santa Cruz County said while the order allows for…wiggle room, he wouldn’t consider crossing county borders for recreation ‘essential’ in this environment.

“San Mateo County’s order specified that people cannot travel more than 5 miles from their homes for the purpose of recreation.

“Following that firm order and other counties’ softer suggestions would limit many bikers and hikers to a small number of nearby options for recreation. Surfers who don’t live in a coastal county are out of luck, too.

“The intent of the law is to keep people from broadening the number of people they could impact if they are infected.”

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s travel ban failed to flag outdoor recreation as an “essential” need as in Minnesota and California, but was vague enough that it also left some of that “wiggle room.”

Health and Social Services spokesman Jeff Turner Monday reported that has now been clarified. In Alaska it’s OK to drive to where you plan to recreate as long as you can get there on the fuel from your city of origin, and as long as you don’t stop anywhere near people and continue to follow the social distancing rules.

That should come as good news to Alaska’s “crust skiers,” glacier-bound fat bikers, spring bear hunters, end-of-season snowmachine riders and others.








13 replies »

  1. Looks like they have crafted a way forward on opening the Copper River Flats and Bristol Bay for commercial fishing. Wondering how they will treat the Sport Fishing industry and tourism. A view from Outside with a “curve” identical to Alaska’s from the UW site- Panic, pain and hysteria over nothing that warrants this kind of reaction. Many of us think we had this thing in the December/January timeline. All models seem to be falling apart or at the least modified significantly below their original estimates. Dunleavy is really in a box between oil, commercial fisheries and tourism.

  2. Benjamin Franklin once said:
    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” 

  3. AK –
    Total Cases : 235 (which some could be flu related)
    Deaths: 7 (which some could be flu related)

    • Like “Global Warming, Climate Change” , whatever it is called – bad data, phony graphs, misleading numbers, trillions of dollars involved, corruption, over burdensome rules and regulations, “millions will die if we don’t do something NOW”, shutdown economies, government control, etc..

    • NY deaths: Covid deaths huh? Democrats and their push for Communism. See a pattern here?

      “What is happening right now is that Chinese companies and Chinese money are lining up for what they expect to be a ‘fire sale’ of British businesses,” Mr Farage said during a Facebook live stream on Wednesday.”

      ALBANY, N.Y. – The majority of New York’s more than 4,700 deaths due to coronavirus were among men, and 86% of all deaths were among people who had underlying illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, new state data shows.

      And 4,089 of those who died had at least one other chronic disease, the records showed:

      The leading underlying illness was hypertension, which showed up in 55% of the deaths.
      Next was diabetes, which was diagnosed in 1,755 deaths, or about 37% of the cases.
      Other top illnesses found in those who died from coronavirus were hyperlipidemia; coronary artery disease; renal disease and dementia.

    • All of those cases and deaths are tested Covid positive. We’ve done a great job as a state keeping these numbers down!

      • or we’ve gotten lucky. or we have a much younger, healthier population than Italy with even more people asymptomatic. or, or, or.

        the numbers have stayed down. there’s no reason to change what we’re doing. but the question of “why” is unlikely to be sorted for a long time. and as with the Spanish flu, the answer may never be known.

        coastal Alaska was hit hard by that pandemic. Central Alaska was almost untouched. certainly the flu was there. there were people infected, but only a handful died.

  4. Sounds reasonable in a state where traveling long distance can and is the same thing as going to the next community in many cases.

    More importantly why are they misrepresenting the number of those who died from Covid in Alaska? The CDC says “Death data, once received and processed by National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), are tabulated by the state or jurisdiction in which the death occurred. Death counts are not tabulated by the decedent’s state of residence.” And yet Alaska DHSS is reporting deaths based upon residence in at least two or three cases. Seven people haven’t dies in Alaska from or with Covid-19, two or three contracted and died from the disease out of state.

    • Steve-O, same thing nationwide. Since the flu carries Covid symptoms, how many seniors who died are mislablled? All about the distribution of $5 trillion dollars and an election year.
      “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for doctors to certify whether a patient has died of coronavirus are “ridiculous” and could be misleading the public.

      Host Laura Ingraham read Jensen the guidelines, which say: “In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID cannot be made but is suspected or likely (e.g. the circumstances are compelling with a reasonable degree of certainty) it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.'”

  5. It felt really good to get out and ski tour up in Hatcher’s today…must have seen a dozen or so slednecks enjoying their day as well.
    Just heard from a buddy that Gunnison County in Colorado (home to Crested Butte) will not allow anyone into the backcountry?
    Glad that our administration clarified the rules and is receptive to the positive benefits of outdoor recreation.
    A few hours skinning up hills and a few natural does of Adrenaline does the body a world of good!
    Thanks to Craig for covering this story as the guidelines were a bit foggy before.
    Here is a good talk with Glen Greenwald and Ed Snowden….Ed discusses the importance of retaining our rights as U.S. citizens during this pandemic.

  6. Thanks for the article Craig. Friendly remark to update the COVID13 reference to COVID19. Stay well

  7. The majority of this whole Covid thing is WAY, WAY blown WAY, WAY out of proportion. More people in Italy have died from the flu, even with a vaccine. Secondly, how many flu deaths, whether in Italy or the US, are lumped into Covid deaths? A lot in my opinion. When Cuomo, from the Cuomo Cime Syndicate, screams “we need more vents, Trump you will have blood on your hands” and then auctions off a warehouse full it is bull. When you have Democrats pushing mail-in ballots it reaks with corruption. When you have Democrat govenors and Senators leveraging the most pain out of their consituants, it tells me a lot that this is a political charade.. The GOP, they are cowards and walk on eggshells because they know if ONE person dies, the media will go, “Ah ha, you killed them”. Getting silly now, all of it. Remember, this is the week where death was supposed to be on every corner, raining from the sky. Prepare for carnage, the most deaths this week. NOTHING!!!! My sister’s friend is a nurse.. Got it, has mild symptoms. Recovering at home.

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