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COVID-19 Shelter-In-Place Order Has Hundreds Headed to the Outdoors

Updated on March 30, 2020
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Beverly majored in psychology and health science and has a strong interest in improving the mental, spiritual, and physical lives of others.

Hundreds of Boaters Crowded the Waterways this Weekend Despite a Shelter-In-Place Order to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

The parking lot at the Skidaway Island Boat Ramp was overflowing despite orders to stay at home
The parking lot at the Skidaway Island Boat Ramp was overflowing despite orders to stay at home

A Sunny Spring Saturday with a Shelter-In-Place Order Brings Hundreds Out to Play On Local Waterways

The weather report predicted a sunny day with temperatures in the low nineties. The city has been shut down due to fears of the novel and deadly Corona virus. Non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors to foot traffic and even churches were told to cancel live meetings and go virtual instead to prevent the spread of the Corona virus. There have been very few cases in this small southern town and officials want to keep it that way, but driving around Saturday you could see people were out in full force at farmer's markets, grocery stores and hardware and garden centers buying plants and landscaping materials for home projects, making many wonder if stricter controls should be in place.

The city, while encouraging people to stay home and banning outdoor group activities, still allowed for individual sports such as biking and walking and apparently boating. While the main beach had been closed, the local rivers, hiking trails and public boat ramps remained open and once word got out, people flocked in droves for some safe-distancing recreation, but how safe was it?

Going Out on the Kayak Alone Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time Without Risking the Spread of the Virus

How Is One to Interpret Shelter-In-Place on A Perfect Spring Day

We don't get many perfect spring days since global warming has turned our weather into hot, humid, muggy, buggy, thunderstorms and torrential rains, but the last Saturday in March was showing all the signs of perfect outdoor get-a-way weather with warm sun, cool breezes and an abundance of flora and fauna to delight both adults and children. By the number of people on trails, bikeways and local waters you would hardly guess the Mayor had issued a shelter-in-place order which shut down all non-essential businesses and turned others into drive-through and on-line businesses only. Residents of the city were told to stay at home and limit their outdoor contacts and activities to slow or stop the spread of the virus. The duration was expected to be two weeks but could last longer depending on the spread of the Corona virus.

Most people were happy to stay home, but many were getting stir-crazy and the beautiful weather was too tempting to stay inside. We were told that individual activities were okay as long as we avoided contact with others so many, myself included, decided to hit the waterways to get as far away from others as possible and this might have been a good idea if half or more of boat owners in the city had not had the same idea at once.

Normally the creeks in this area see very little boat traffic outside of crabbing and fishing with a few motorboats in the larger rivers. I will admit, I was hesitant about taking the kayak out and was not even sure the boat ramp would be open. When I arrived about eight in the morning there were only three boat trailers and trucks and two kayakers who were already out on the water. It seemed peaceful, but shortly after launching into the river, more boats arrived and after emerging from a somewhat peaceful creek back out into intercoastal waters, it was a bit frightening. Speed boats flew by threatening to swamp small fishing boats anchored just offshore and crossing the channel proved a difficult challenge for paddlers especially when larger boats came speeding around the bend and refused to give way.

I quickly ducked into the smaller creek system and paddled to my favorite beach spot on an uninhabited island only to find not one but three groups of boaters encamped there and went further down to keep my distance. Later ten kayakers emerged from a private creek where I had never seen any boat traffic. They appeared to have rented the boats as I took defensive measures to prevent being run into as they struggled to steer straight. They were polite but I was taking this social distancing thing to heart and could not seem to find anyplace remote and quiet so finally turned back to the beach area where two inexperienced paddlers were launching as I waited to pull in. One of the ladies attempted to paddle out in the river but got caught in the current and ended up ramming my kayak as I jokingly pushed her away with my paddle and cried, "six feet back!" Thankfully she got the joke, but in part I wondered how safe this was and what would happen if someone got in trouble and needed help forcing others to risk contamination and spreading a deadly virus. It was probably not the smartest thing to come here, but I really had no idea that many people would be out.

Even on the usually abandoned nature paths running beside the creek there were dozens of families, some camping in tents and people on wooden bridges overlooking the marsh wanting to know where I had rented my kayak so they could join the crowded waterway. There was no peace to be found and even the crows were voicing their unrest at the disturbance of their habitat.

When I left there were no parking spots in a nearly 200 spot lot and trucks and trailers lined the roads and grassy islands. In my mind I had thought the beach would be empty and only a few fishermen would be out, but instead it looked like half the city had decided to do the same thing and I now wondered if my iffy decision to begin with had been a really bad call.

A Tiny Strip of Beach Offers a Beckoning Retreat on an Otherwise Crowded Waterway

Do Terms Like Shelter-In-Place Really Keep People Safe From Contageous Disease

First, I will admit since the plea to stay at home until the virus is no longer a threat, I have left my home to get gas and groceries, horse and chicken food and to have the oil changed and tires rotated on my truck which was burning old oil and moving rough. I stayed home outside of running in my neighborhood and helping take care of my aging parents. I could have stayed home Saturday and would have if I had known how many others were going to be outside in the same location. Like many I was missing my friends and the freedom to roam and play wherever I liked without restrictions, but I was playing it safe and socially distancing to the detriment of my already socially distancing self that I had worked so hard to train to be polite and welcoming to strangers. My fear is that when this is over, I may have to go to readjustment school to teach my distancing self that it is okay to allow strange people to get within six feet of me without bowing up like a rattlesnake ready to strike if the offending person does not back down and while I may make light of a serious situation, I am well aware that viruses, like gossip can spread quickly and do irreversible harm.

My concern is that our government officials are either being too unclear or lenient or too fear-mongering, leading many to feel they know what is best and the media is overreacting. Reports from my friends this Saturday showed that many people are not heeding the warnings with one reporting that her neighbor was hosting a party with no distancing and another stating parking lots and roads were crowded with people shopping for pleasure not food and necessary staples.

Again, our area has not been hit hard yet by the virus so many are complacent and tired of being held hostage by fear. As summer approaches and beautiful weather invites us outside, will the risk of contamination rise as people interpret government orders as they please due to no one else complying and staying indoors?

Will it take quarantine measures or videos of infected people dying to convince people to use greater caution or like smoking and drinking and eating unhealthy foods, will people keep doing what brings them pleasure and risk dying or infecting others to maintain the freedoms to which they have become accustomed?

As for me, outside of going to get groceries and running early in my neighborhood and maybe fixing the bike to go further faster, I plan on staying close to home. I miss my friends. I miss my groups. I have never been big on group chats and teleconferencing and watching videos of church services is not the same as being there though I am grateful to have the video option.

If your city is under orders to stay home, how have you handled it, especially if you care for others? Have you seen or experienced unsafe behaviors from others in person or on social media? Do you think we could be doing more to prevent the spread of COVID-19? Do you think older Americans are taking more precautions than younger ones? Let us know in the comments section below and don't forget to take the poll to let us know where you stand on lock-downs, quarantines and stay-at-home orders and how you interpret them?

Me, trying to practice social isolation!
Me, trying to practice social isolation!

What are your thoughts on staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

If your state or local government ordered a stay-in-one-place order, how would you interpret that?

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Dead tree roots look like they are reaching out asking for help
Dead tree roots look like they are reaching out asking for help

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Beverly English

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