Keeping the Distance, Even Outside

COVID-19 shutdowns have affected the accessibility of many outdoor destinations, but for those remaining open, social distancing etiquette still applies.

What exactly does keeping distance mean when going outside? When not in a confined area, is it still necessary to stay so far apart? 

Though it may seem superfluous, the answer is yes.

Where not restricted by local or state laws, going outside and into public lands is a refreshing change of pace from the solitude of confinement.

However, as many people’s normal gathering places are closed, more and more may flock to popular outdoor spots in search of a reprieve from being inside.

In order to responsibly slow the spread of the virus, begin by refraining from any travel beyond local borders. While not everyone lives near fun outdoor locations, it’s important to make do with what’s available.

“Stay in your local area. Local is subjective; I’d suggest the county you live in,” said Keith Howells, Assistant Director of SUU Outdoors. “Stop traveling to other places and putting strain on other people’s local health facilities.”

Howells suggests that even regional travel is inappropriate during these times. For instance, Moab, though sharing southern Utah with Cedar City, is not local to Iron County residents.

If nothing else, setting up a hammock or a tent in the yard is more than adequate when local boundaries make suitable destinations scarce.

Group size is another factor to consider. Sometimes a hike or a climbing spot can get crowded quickly, and with many public lands closing campgrounds, dispersed camping might bring people too close to one another.

Most policies regarding groups also suggest limiting contact to families within a household. The same holds true for going outside. 

“It should be those who you live with—not your friend that comes over all the time, but your roommate, your actual family, those that stay with you when you’re sick and take care of you.” Howells says.

And perhaps most important during this time when medical help is already stretched thin, conservative decisions in backcountry or other isolated settings are in order.

With health professionals and hospitals overwhelmed by screenings and shortages of supplies, no one wants to be responsible for requiring exhausted resources when avoidable.

In other words, recreate simply and safely. 

The great outdoors will still be calling when Coronavirus has dwindled. Now is the time for extra precaution and responsible recreation.

For additional guidelines and active Utah ordinances, visit

Story by: Reyce Knutson
Photos by: Reyce Knutson and Macie Jones on Unsplash