Staying Safe Outside During COVID-19

Outdoor exercise is a great way to enhance your physical and emotional well-being during the COVID-19 epidemic. Fortunately, residents of the Iowa City area have an abundance of outdoor recreation options. Local tails and parks have seen an uptick in activity lately.

An image of a bikeSince social distancing restrictions remain in place for our area, many individuals are wondering about the safety of activities such as jogging or biking. While the risk of contracting the disease is low while recreating outside, there are still important precautions you should take.

Let’s start with an important question.

Should you wear a mask when walking, running or biking outdoors? It depends on the situation. For example, what if you’re going for a jog by yourself and you’re keeping to areas where you can be alone? In this situation, you would be appropriately distanced and would not need a mask. However, if you can’t guarantee you won’t be alone, then you should take some precautions.

Even if you think you’re going to be alone bringing a mask with you is a wise choice—that way you have protection if you feel you need it. 

Here are some additional suggestions for staying safe while you’re recreating outdoors:

Move over and maintain as much distance as possible.

Always be scanning the area for other individuals and give yourself plenty of time to move over. If you see someone approaching on the sidewalk/trail, cross to the other side of the street. If it’s not possible to cross, do your best to create as much distance as possible. 

Think of trails/sidewalks like a roadway and keep to the right.

If you’re walking with your family, try not to take up the entire space. If you see someone coming, switch to single file and try to keep kids and pets from wandering into the center of the trail/sidewalk.

Change up your routine.

Now that there are more hours of daylight it’s easier to go out during non-peak times. For instance, I find there are fewer people out and about after 7:30 p.m. In addition, if you have a favorite trail or route that is usually crowded, you might try to find a less popular route. Instead of trails I’ve been sticking to sidewalks in quieter neighborhoods. 

Be safe about friendly conversations.

What if you run into someone you know when you’re out on a walk or jog? If you decide to have a “stop and chat” make sure you put on your mask and maintain your distance. Keep an eye out for passers-by to avoid clogging the sidewalk or trail. 

Keep hygiene in mind.

If possible, try to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you in addition to your mask. Be sure to cover coughs and sneezes and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

Speak up.

Be sure to let people know if you need to pass, whether you are biking, walking or jogging (this is a good rule to follow in non-pandemic times as well).

Avoid playground equipment for now.

As a reminder, the restrictions on playground equipment remain in place for our area, at least until May 15, 2020.

Following simple precautions can ensure that everyone stays safe while enjoying the outdoors during this challenging time.


Meghann is the mom of 5 kids. She is a Lecturer at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an Owner/Partner at Brand Driven Digital. Meghann was elected to the Coralville City Council in 2017 and is currently serving her first term. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Coralville Community Food Pantry (Vice-Chair) and on the DVIP Board of Directors. She is also a member of Johnson County's Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Policy Board. Meghann is passionate about her family, her community, and is a proud pop culture nerd.


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