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What outdoor physical activity is allowed under Virginia’s stay-at-home order?

Gyms across the country are closed. Many basketball courts are closed. In some cases, the rims have been removed from hoops. Tennis courts are closed and even some golf courses are closed.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, everyday activity is being affected. That includes how people can exercise.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced a stay-at-home order Monday, effective immediately. The order, which can be amended or rescinded if the spread of COVID-19 slows and the situation improves, lasts through June 10 as currently stated. That means Virginians are to spend the next 72 days primarily at home.

“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” Northam said. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home.”

The order does allow outdoor exercise, however, stating that “engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements” is allowed. This means people need to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and try to remain at least six feet apart from others when participating in these activities.

While exercise is allowed, knowing exactly what you’re able to do in the Charlottesville area with many closings is a bit tougher.

What you can’t do

According to the city of Charlottesville’s website, the following locations are closed: all indoor recreation centers and pools; all playgrounds on park or city school property; all outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts and picnic shelters; park restrooms; Meadowcreek Golf Course; the McIntire Park skate park; and parking lots at McIntire, Pen, Tonsler and Washington parks.

While playing basketball or tennis with as few as two people falls well within the social gathering limit of 10 people, the virus can live on surfaces and spread through shared touch, which makes sports like basketball and tennis capable of spreading the virus, especially in public settings.

“We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing,” Northam said.

Golf is not prohibited on the list of activities, per Northam’s Monday press conference. The sport, which is usually played alone or in small groups, is still allowed assuming a course remains open.

“I think it’s fairly straightforward,” Northam said. “One can go to the golf course and play golf, but the clubhouses are closed.”

Adding to the outdoor cancellations, starting Wednesday, all short-term stays at privately owned campgrounds in Virginia are canceled.

What you can do

Open locations in Charlottesville include all parks and trails. Dog parks are also open, but require a limit of 10 people in any fenced in areas, per social distancing guidelines.

Charlottesville’s website lists 24 parks, including 18 with trails. Two parks, Azalea Park and Darden Towe Park, include dog parks and trails. Some trails, like the Rivanna Trail, can be easily accessed from parks like Riverview Park. The Rivanna Trail offers 20 miles of hiking.

Parks and trails are an easy option to get exercise, in addition to working out in your home or walking around your neighborhood, and it is encouraged that people follow CDC guidelines when leaving the house to get fresh air and exercise. The National Recreation and Park Association recommends avoiding trails and other public outdoor activity if you have symptoms, as it is best to self-quarantine.

Going for a bike ride is another approved outdoor activity that can be done alone or in a small group while practicing social distancing. People participating in outdoor activities should follow proper hygiene measures such as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

“Users who do visit one of the open parks or facilities are encouraged to assist in helping reduce the potential spread of the virus by staying home if you are not feeling well, washing your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, wiping down surfaces after use and avoiding close contact with others,” Charlottesville Parks and Recreation said in a press release two weeks ago.

The bottom line

It’s an unusual time, and Virginia residents are under a stay-at-home order through June 10. During that 72-day timeframe, exercise is still allowed. While gyms, basketball courts and even tennis courts are closed in the Charlottesville area, exercise in the form of hiking, walking, running and riding a bike remains a viable option.

The stay-at-home order does not prohibit leaving the house to exercise, but it does stress the importance of social distancing for those who decide to leave their residence for outdoor activity.


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