Physical Distancing During Outdoor Activities


I spent some time outdoors these past two weekends and had a few observations about people’s behaviour outdoors.

First, this past weekend it seemed less crowded on the pathways in Calgary, Alberta than the weekend that preceded it. Both weekends seemed to be much busier outside in the parks and pathways when compared to a month or two ago (even when taking into account the changes in the weather).

I cycled both weekends on the river pathways along relatively similar routes and the weather both weekends was nice. I have to say that while people were largely not congregating in large groups on either weekend, the crowding seemed a bit lower this weekend than last.

Our city closed some roads in Calgary to vehicle traffic which I was pleasantly surprised by. I thought this was a creative and proactive approach to try to address outdoor crowding the previous weekend. We’ll have to see if it actually worked but my impression is that it helped.

In true Alberta spirit, Edmonton may take up road closures as not wanting to be outdone by the competition.

Unfortunately, Alberta parks announcements of closing provincial parks did not seem to hit home. People continued to show up at Alberta Parks locations causing some outdoor crowding there. Thankfully, the message did seem to be received about requests for people not to travel to Canmore and Banff.

A poll by YouGov on March 26, 2020 asked Americans how much they trusted people to follow social distancing while outside. The majority of the 9,000 respondents didn’t trust people to follow this advice. My feeling is that the numbers would probably be similar if a poll was done in Canada., March 26, 2020

There was a contrast for me in how physical distancing was observed inside compared to outside. I made one trip to get groceries and people seemed more mindful of the 2 metre rule indoors when compared to outside.

My impression with the outdoors was that there was less attention paid to this outdoors. Whether this is due to differences in the people in the locations, differences in the amount of attention being given to COVID while doing the different activities it’s hard to say.

I wasn’t able to find a lot about differences in the risk of transmission of COVID indoors or outdoors although Health Canada does state that the risk of transmission outside may be decreased due to better ventilation.

At the same time all the rules for physical distancing and mass gatherings continue to apply to both indoor and outdoor locations.

This is a changing situation and we will have to continue to assess how we have done as a society to maintain social distancing and enjoy outdoor activities.

Let’s hope we can all continue to act cautiously and responsibly outdoors so we can continue to enjoy being outside during these trying times.

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