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A mask while outside on trails: a COVID-19 yes or no?

SOCIALDISTANCESIGN
Posted at 6:12 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 20:54:11-04

EL PASO COUNTY — More people in Colorado are wearing masks when they go out for essential errands, ever since Governor Polis encouraged the COVID-19 precaution. There are also some questioning why people out on bikes or trails are not wearing them.

Dr. Robin Johnson, Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health says part of the pandemic battle plan should include getting outside. "Maintain our mental health as well as our physical, is really important." A healthy body is better suited to fight off the virus.

Even better is avoiding any contact with COVID-19. Masks are now one of many strategies aimed at doing everything possible to cut-off the virus.

"They do decrease the distance obviously that a droplet could travel or that you might intake,” said Dr. Johnson. There is differing effectiveness depending on the type. “The masks that we wear, those homemade masks are not completely impervious to the virus, so we shouldn't get complacent because we have one and then we can be with whoever we want."

In a closed space with lots of people masks makes sense, but opinions differ when it comes to wearing them outside where there is room to roam. "if you're on a trail, you know all by yourself and in the wilderness, Cheyenne Mountain [for example],” said Dr. Johnson, “you probably can take your mask off." Open air, plus extended social distance equals much lower risk.

Think differently about outdoor spots more crowded these days. If your face is not already covered, Dr. Johnson says it is a good idea having mask around your neck and ready. You see someone coming towards you on the trail. You pull your mask backup. Some of that, there's some common sense there."

Outside or inside, masks do not give you a pass on social distancing. Signs advising social distancing are now up at many trailheads in Southern Colorado. The doctor says evaluate where you are, the number of people near-by, then do what is best. A mask is good, but you also may want to back-up, steer clear, or come back later.