As Johnson County’s weather warms up, here are some reminders for staying COVID-safe outdoors

Skater at Harmon Park

Johnson Countians can stay COVID-19 safe outdoors by socially distancing and wearing masks when they are unable to do so, according to health expert guidance. Above, a skater enjoys Harmon Park's skate park in Prairie Village.

After nearly a year of living under pandemic health orders, and not to mention the recent record cold snap, Johnson Countians may want to take advantage of the upcoming warmer weather this weekend and beyond.

While there are well-practiced safety measures for indoor activities, there are also guidelines for trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 while outside, too.

Many such limits were in place around Johnson County last summer, but frankly, many of us may have forgotten.

What you need to remember

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still lists being outside as a safer choice for all activities because coronavirus spreads more easily indoors than outdoors.

Although the risk of spread isn’t as great outdoors, there’s still a chance of COVID-19 transmission if precautions aren’t taken.

The Johnson County Park and Recreation District and the Department of Health and Environment both have outdoor COVID-19 guidelines, including when to wear a mask and etiquette at public parks and trails.

Here is some guidance, including tips from JCDHE, JCPRD and the CDC, on staying safe outdoors:

Do I have to wear a mask? 

  • In public parks and trail areas, if you’re alone, or with people you live with, you don’t have to wear a mask.
  • If you can maintain at least six feet of social distance from others who are not in your bubble, you may also be able to go without a mask.
  • Still, you are encouraged to wear a mask if you’re unable to maintain six feet of distance from others, even outdoors.

What about if I’m exercising? 

  • The same applies even if you’re exercising outdoors — if you’re alone or with those you live with — no mask is required.
  • Bear in mind, you exhale more breath when exercising, so it is more critical to maintain at least six feet of social distance from others if, say, you’re jogging or biking.

How about competitive sports? 

  • In general, if you can’t maintain at least six feet of social distance during a contest — say, during a game of pickup basketball or soccer — county health officials suggest you wear a mask.
  • Sports like tennis, where distance is easier to maintain, competitors may be able to go without masks.
  • The CDC cautions that the more individuals a participant interacts with during a competitive contest — and the closer those interactions are — the higher the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Spectators are still encouraged to wear masks, especially if they cannot keep social distance from others watching.

What if I want to go walking or hiking on trails? 

  • If you’re enjoying parks or trails, groups should be no larger than 50 people.
  • The CDC recommends visiting parks close to your home and avoiding crowded parks or amenities with many people gathered around them.
  • Maintain social distance at county parks and along trails.

Are playgrounds safe? 

  • While most playgrounds reopened at least for limited use last summer, most equipment is not regularly sanitized.
  • Wash your and your children’s hands or sanitize them before and after using playground equipment.
  • Stay home if you’re sick or someone in your household is not feeling well.