Med­i­cal pro­fes­sors say it’s OK to go out­doors amid virus

The State - - Front Page - BY LU­CAS DAPRILE ldaprile@thes­tate.com

Yes, it’s safe to go to walk­ing on trails and in pub­lic parks, so long as one main­tains so­cial dis­tanc­ing, a top doc­tor told The State on Fri­day.

“I’m all for good ex­er­cise and fresh air as long as you main­tain your 6 feet apart,” said Michael Sch­midt, a pro­fes­sor of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and im­munol­ogy at the Med­i­cal Univer­sity of South Carolina.

Steven Fi­ester, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of South Carolina’s School of Medicine in Greenville, agreed.

“It is safe for in­di­vid­u­als to en­joy out­door ac­tiv­i­ties such as walks in the park or runs around the neigh­bor­hood as long as they main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing,” Fi­ester said in an email.

Pub­lic out­door spa­ces through­out S.C. are be­gin­ning to re­open. Fri­day, South Carolina re­opened its state parks on a lim­ited ba­sis af­ter clos­ing them to min­i­mize the spread of COVID-19. The West Columbia Riverwalk Park and Am­phithe­ater also re­opened as of Fri­day.

“Parks and other nat­u­ral lo­ca­tions are kind of a nat­u­ral es­cape,” said Jeff Hallo, a Clem­son Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor who stud­ies park and con­ser­va­tion area man­age­ment. “What makes them less ideal is when we all use the same re­source.”

The best way to en­joy parks and the out­doors with­out run­ning into a large crowd of peo­ple is to go off the beaten path, Hallo said.

“There’s plenty of trails and plenty of at­trac­tions in th­ese parks,” Hallo said.

Not ev­ery­one has re­opened their parks. The city of Columbia’s parks re­main closed, and of­fi­cials have not set a date for when they will re­open, a spokesman said in an email Fri­day.

Those who do go out to a park are asked to prac­tice so­cial dis­tanc­ing, wear a

mask and wash their hands when they get home, S.C. De­part­ment of Health and En­vi­ron­men­tal

Con­trol spokes­woman Laura Ren­wick said in an email.

The Pal­metto State has done a rel­a­tively poor job so­cial dis­tanc­ing since the quar­an­tine be­gan, ac­cord­ing to one study that gave S.C. an “F” grade for so­cial dis­tanc­ing prac­tices.

But just be­cause some parks are open doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all with out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. Play­ing con­tact sports and us­ing play­ground equip­ment could spread COVID-19, Fi­ester said.

“For the time be­ing it would be best to not play con­tact sports or any sports where ath­letic equip­ment is shared in­clud­ing foot­balls and base­balls that may be touched by mul­ti­ple peo­ple un­less the in­di­vid­u­als that are play­ing the game are peo­ple that you are with in quar­an­tine,” Fi­ester said. “Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese items can harbor the virus caus­ing COVID-19 for pe­ri­ods of time thus al­low­ing spread of the virus.”

Run­ning on pub­lic trails, even if one tem­po­rar­ily breaches the 6-foot so­cial dis­tanc­ing bar­rier be­tween them­selves and a by­stander, is most likely safe, Sch­midt said. That’s be­cause when some­one is run­ning, it cre­ates “tur­bu­lence” sim­i­lar to when a boat moves through wa­ter and cre­ates a wake, Sch­midt said.

“You your­self are not go­ing to be a risk be­cause you’re ef­fec­tively cre­at­ing your own tur­bu­lence,” Sch­midt said.

THOMAS HAM­MOND on­line@thes­tate.com

Mid­lands res­i­dents gather over the Me­mo­rial Day Week­end in this file photo from 2015. The city of Columbia’s parks re­main closed, and of­fi­cials have not set a date for when they will re­open, a spokesman said in an email Fri­day.

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