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.
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.
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.
“(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.