How to stay safe and healthy outside during the COVID-19 outbreak

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been stuck inside quite a bit the past few weeks. Maintaining a safe physical distance from one another is important to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it also means you end up in your house a lot more than usual. This can make anyone feel a little stir crazy, and it also might mean you’re not getting as much as exercise as you should. 

Finding ways to get outside and stay active during the pandemic can be a real boost for your mental and physical health. Going for a walk, fishing, hunting or biking provide great opportunities to get some fresh air and exercise. That’s why Gov. Janet Mills allowed outdoor recreation, including fishing, walking, hiking, running and biking in her recent “Stay Healthy at Home” order. 

Judy Camuso, commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has expanded the spring turkey season. The youth days were Saturday, April 25 and Monday, April 27, and the regular season will start on Saturday, May 2, instead of Monday, May 4, which will give hunters an extra Saturday. Additionally, birds do not need to be tagged, though if you harvest one that is banded, the department is asking that it be reported at wildturkeymaine.org to help with its game management efforts. 

When enjoying the outdoors, it’s still important that we take steps to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which oversees state parks and public lands in Maine, recommends finding the right time and place to get outside. 

Visit parks, trails and other outdoor recreation areas near your home. Many beaches and state parks have been closed due to overcrowding, so make sure your favorite spot is open before you go.

 It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, because if you get to one of these places and the parking lot is full, it’s probably too crowded to enjoy safely. And consider going at non-peak times if possible, such as a weekday morning. 

ACF also recommends being prepared before you head out. That means packing snacks and additional layers, dressing appropriately, wearing bug spray and not taking unnecessary risks.

These are good recommendations to follow any time you head out for an outdoor adventure, but particularly now as services can be limited in some places.  

Finally, ACF recommends heeding all COVID-19 health warnings. You should always stay at least 6 feet away from other people who do not live in your household, step aside when passing other people on the trail, and remember that groups of 10 or more are prohibited. Shorten your stay at natural stopping points along trails, such as waterfalls and scenic overlooks, as people tend to congregate in these areas. Wearing a mask or other appropriate face coverings is recommended, and you should avoid touching communal surfaces like signs, kiosks, buildings and benches.

Most importantly, if you feel sick, stay home. As a reminder, if you feel symptoms such as a cough, fever or fatigue, and think you might have COVID-19, call your primary care provider or the health care facility you normally use. It’s important that folks don’t just show up unexpected, as that can further spread the disease.

For any questions about COVID-19 and Maine’s response, you can call 211, text your zip code to 898-211 or email info@211maine.org. You can also visit mainesenate.org to stay up to date on the state’s response to COVID-19.

If you need help and aren’t sure where to turn, I am happy to help. You can reach my office at 207-287-1515 or send me an email at james.dill@legislature.maine.gov. Remember, I work for you.

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