Can you go outside during a 'Stay home, Stay safe' order?

Published: Apr. 1, 2020 at 4:45 AM EDT
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State officials want to make it clear: you can't catch coronavirus from the trees. During the stay home, stay safe order, you're actually encouraged to get outside.

"You're encouraged to go outside," said Michael Snyder, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. "There's such a spike in screen time now, for example, and a crash in movement."

When going outside, Snyder recommends following the usual guidance: stay six feet apart, wash your hands (especially if you interact with commonly-touched surfaces), and only go outside if you're feeling well.

"The other side of this is just because you're outside, doesn't mean you're safe," said Snyder. "That's why we want people to understand yes, going out, moving your body in nature, fresh air is really good and healthy in a lot of different ways."

He says you should also leash your dog.

"You can be with your dog, but you don't want your dog jumping on other people," said Snyder.

The commissioner suggests venturing to low-lying locations close to home, like flat woods and trails. He says backroads are perfect places for running with a family member or friend as you can separate yourselves by the width of the street.

"Be aware, be thoughtful, step aside, give people room. Overlooks, scenic overlooks, the popular places where we tend to congregate... that's where it's going to take everybody paying attention and helping each other out with this," said Snyder. "And that can mean when you show up at a parking lot at a trailhead and it's crowded, maybe move onto another one."

You should also take it easy while on those trails, limiting any chance at further burdening the already taxed health care system.

"Now's not the time to engage in extreme activities, really pushing it, risking injury that would have you in the hospital or other health care provider," said Snyder.

Snyder says hunting and fishing are some solitary activities you can do right now. The Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge is also underway where families can engage in a scavenger hunt and win a free pass to the state parks.

While state parks aren't staffed and don't offer services right now, they are still open to use. According to Snyder, they probably won't be fully up and running by Memorial Day, the usual kickoff to the season, due to COVID-19 protocols.

"Just be good out there," said Snyder. "Be good stewards taking care of the place. Pack in, pack out, leave no trace, be kind, play nice together out there."

While pandemic protocols are constantly changing, we face a number of challenges in our daily lives, but the Agency of Natural Resources says one thing is certain, it's never been more necessary to get outside.