As the surge in COVID patients continues throughout Missouri and the country, questions about what activities are safe and what precautions to take continue to change. Officials with the St. Joseph Health Department said outdoor activities are still relatively safe, though it still is recommended that citizens take precautions.
“The CDC recommended that all persons wear masks when indoors, but they did not address anything about being outdoors,” Health Director Debra Bradley said. “The CDC also talked about having multilayers of mitigation. So you get people who are vaccinated, wearing masks, washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick and cleaning surfaces. The more you do, the more likely you’re going to suppress this virus.”
“Outside, if you have a nice breeze, it helps move the virus along and keep it from landing anywhere. It’s why if you’re outside, the CDC hasn’t given any recommendations about that.”
Bradley was persistent in saying that the best way to slow the spread of the virus is through vaccination. Buchanan County has administered 35,231 vaccines so far with just 22% of the population receiving at least one dose.
“Research has shown that the delta variant is more contagious and so it spreads easily and it spreads rapidly,” Bradley said. “When you have a large community of people being unvaccinated, you run the risk of more people being sick, more people in the hospital, more people with long-term health issues and more people dying. That’s what we’re trying to prevent, and the vaccine has been shown to protect against severe illness and death. It’s not 100%, but it does have an impact.”
With the start of school coming in less than a month, so comes fall sports. The CDC reported two weeks ago that the vaccinated population aged 12 to 15 sits at just 25%. Bradley says that despite the hesitancy to give children the vaccine, it is highly recommended.
“We have seen the virus run through entire sports teams, we’ve seen it in the Olympics,” Bradley said. “Because the team often sits in close quarters, like in baseball when they’re on offense, if they’re able to spread them out, that will help minimize the possible risk. If a person is playing basketball and indoors on a bench, spread them out and put a mask on them.”
A mask mandate is always an option, but no signs are pointing toward the city putting them back into effect. The city has multiple outdoor options for people who are looking for activities this time of year, from the trails of the Riverwalk and Sunbridge Hills to local mini-golf courses.
“The message is the same as last year, but this year we have the vaccines to help us out,” Bradley said. “That is a huge step and level of protection for people — they just have to take it. Being outside helps with the airflow aspect of being able to breathe cleaner air, so it does help being outdoors. It doesn’t completely mitigate it, so people still need to spread out, be vaccinated, and if they want to wear a mask outdoors, that’s great too.”