The dangers created by COVID-19 are real and the precautions being set forth are necessary to minimize the spread and protect us. The threat level and risk assessments and recommendations seem to be changing all the time but some things remain fairly constant. Hand washing and social distancing are the two primary things you can to do protect yourself and those around you. Plus wearing a mask to control dispersion of an infecting virus through coughs, sneezes, or just breathing. To a large exotent, my mask protects you and your mask protects me, but wearing a mask also provides you some protection against breathing airborne viruses. That being said, what about camping in this perilous time? As a volunteer firefighter and EMR I receive regular updates on what is going on with COVID-19 and thought I might share some insights with my fellow RVers and OHVers.
Many developed camprounds have been closed by government "lockdowns", but in most cases, at least dispersed camping is still possible. Dispersed camping is generally more accessible in the Western Untied States where there are many areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There is also some dispersed camping available in state and national forests. However, for your own safety and the safety of everyone around you, you should still maintain appropriate social distancing. Unfortunately, that puts some major restrictions on one of the most iconic camping activities: the campfire. Traditionally we like to gather close around the campfire to enjoy the flames and one another's company. You can still do this in relative safety IF you maintain proper social distancing. The "official" spacing is a minimum of 6' but some health professionals suggest it should be 10'. Also wearing a face mask outside of your own living space is strongly advised. Yes, face masks can be hard to come by during this crisis, but even wearing a bandana to control the spread of moisture will help. Some "experts" even recommend doubling up and wearing two masks! As if one wasn't uncomforable enough!
Camping, hiking, and other traditional outdoor activities can provide a welcome respite from the "cabin fever" that comes with being confined to our homes. Outdoor activities (except for contact sports!) generally allow for appropriate social distancing and provide opportunities to get some fresh air and much needed exercise.
Will wearing a face mask keep me from getting COVID-19? Sadly, the answer is "NO". But it can help reduce the chances. Your skin does a pretty good job of protecting you from COVID-19, but it can get in and infect you through your eyes, nose, or mouth. That is why face masks and googles are important. Face masks are essential for reducing the spread of the virus, more by restricting contaminated vapors from being passed along to those around the wearer, than by protecting the wearer. So, if your mask slips off in public, don't panic -- unless someone without a mask coughs or sneeze on you! Think of it this way: My Mask protects You; Your Mask protects Me.
What's with the hand washing? Proper hand washing can remove the virus from your hands, minimizing the chance of getting it in your mouth. On average, people touch their faces about 16 times a minute! Every touch with a COVID-19 contaminated hand, could introduce infection. Did you know that viruses are not actually alive? They are lumps of protein wrapped in fat. They can't reproduce on their own. They must get into a living cell where they modify its DNA to produce copies of themselves. Proper hand washing removes the fat layer and makes the protein vulnerable. Not long before this COVID-19 outbreak I read that hand washing was the single most significant factor in medical safety EVER! Hand washing has saved more lives and reduced the spread of disease more than anything else in medical science!
A couple of vaccines have recently been granted limited approval by the FDA. They have NOT bee fully vetted yet but are reported to have been successfully tested on more than 15,000 people. Availability is limited for a while Initially vaccines are being made available to first responders, front line medical people, and nursing homes. Hopefully, as general distribution becomes possible, we will get some relief from the lockdowns and other restrictions. Should you trust the new vaccines? Well, as volunteer firefighters my wife and I have already been vaccinated without any unpleasant side affects and my ER Director nephew definitely approves of them.
The bottom line: keep on camping! Just do it safely.