With the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong, the outdoors seems to be the safest place to be according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, with more people flocking outside for outdoor activities, is it even safe to camp?
The CDC says “staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy.” They are encouraging people to visit parks and camp, but with some basic rules. You will need to continue to practice good personal hygiene and maintain social distancing.
Dr. Stephen Loyd, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at JourneyPure agrees with the CDC recommendation. “If you’re prepared to take the proper precautions to keep yourself and others safe, camping is actually a great idea right now,” says Dr. Loyd. He continues, “A lot of people have been stuck inside or are struggling with anxiety or depression due to the pandemic, and getting out in nature might be the remedy that you need. Spending time in nature is great for your mind and body as it’s known to increase immunity and combat anxiety/depression.”
Epidemiologist and public health and COVID-19 advisor at Parenting Pod, Robert Gomez, also agrees that camping is safe as long as you follow the CDC’s guidelines. Follow these tips to camp safely this year:
“Try to camp at a local campground to reduce your risk of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus,” suggest Gomez, “Camping at a local campground eliminates the need for non-essential travel outside your community.” The CDC also recommends that you check with the campground in advance to find out if the bathroom facilities are open and what services are available. This will help you prepare what you need ahead of time and avoid unexpected surprises.
Avoid Busy Times
Campgrounds are always busier in the summer months and holiday weekends. However, they are generally quieter during the week. “Camping during a busy time can put you at risk of contracting COVID-19 because you will be exposing yourself to other individuals who could potentially have the disease and not have any symptoms,” warns Gomez.
Travel with Family Only
Gomez says that camping with only your family members reduces the risk of exposure to other individuals who may be ill but not be showing any symptoms. “As we continue to learn more about the way SARS-CoV-2 spreads, we know that you’re at the highest risk when in close contact with other people as it spreads easily via air droplets from coughing or sneezing,” Dr. Loyd adds, “That’s why you should keep your group small, travel with people in your household.”
Maintain Social Distancing
Yes, even in the outdoors you need to stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with. “Not maintaining social distancing puts you at risk of being in close proximity to someone who may have the disease and not know they have it,” says Gomez. And, as the CDC recommends, if you can not maintain that distance, wear a mask. “Face coverings are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult,” says the CDC.
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Wash Your Hands
You’re probably getting tired of hearing this advice, but good hygiene is absolutely necessary with it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and other germs. The same goes for when you are traveling to the campground. “When you stop at gas stations, wear your mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands like you would when going to the grocery store,” suggests Dr. Loyd.
“Not washing hands can put you at risk of having COVID-19 germs on your hands, which you could have gotten from things you have touched,” explains Gomez, “Your risk of contracting COVID-19 increases by the fact that we all tend to touch our face without noticing it.”
Although most campgrounds are following the recommended CDC guidelines for cleaning facilities, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You never know when and how often the facilities were cleaned and how well they were cleaned. “If you’re traveling to a camping ground, it’s important to be stocked up on masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and hand soap,” says Dr. Loyd, “Once you get to the campground, keep in mind that people might be traveling there from all over—so you don’t know who or what they’ve been exposed to.”
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Overall, camping can be an activity you can enjoy during the coronavirus pandemic as long as you follow the CDC’s guidelines. “If you’re keeping your distance, wearing a mask, and practicing good hygiene, camping is a fairly low-risk activity right now,” says Dr. Loyd, “However, if you do begin developing symptoms or someone else in your group does, it’s important to isolate the symptomatic person immediately and contact any other campers that you may have come in contact with.”
And if you’re still not totally sure about it, you can always camp in your backyard.
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