A reminder that ‘stay home for Nevada’ has an outdoors exception

Historic Railroad Trail at Lake Mead Recreational Area
Historic Railroad Trail at Lake Mead Recreational Area (Image by esudroff from Pixabay)

Getting cabin fever? You’re not alone.

With schools and workplaces closed, thousands of people laid off and all “non-essential” businesses temporarily shuttered, people across Nevada are finding themselves bored and restless at home. Officials have described staying home as a life-saving act, designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t ever go outside.

“Nevadans who wish to enjoy our great outdoors can still do so, but we must do so safely to prevent the spread of this disease,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak last week. “You may enjoy a daily walk in the park with others in your household, but please, maintain a safe distance from those that are also enjoying the public spaces and do not touch any of the equipment where the virus may be lurking.”

Even in states with more extreme social distancing orders in place, exceptions have been written to include outdoor activities that can be done while maintaining distance from others. Physical activity is recommended by healthcare professionals, as well as by mental health professionals, and that hasn’t changed in the coronavirus era.

When venturing outside for some exercise and fresh air, health officials say people should practice social distancing by remaining at least 6 feet away from people they don’t live with, avoid touching any shared outdoor equipment, cover any cough or sneeze, and wash their hands immediately upon returning home.

The Nevada Department of Transportation on Monday announced a “Walk and Roll Wednesdays” initiative to encourage families to be physically active in socially responsible ways during the state-mandated shutdowns. They are calling for people to spend at least 20 minutes outside every Wednesday.

That can occur in your backyard or in your neighborhood. Or at your neighborhood park

Clark County, Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas have all closed their recreational centers, playgrounds and areas where groups would typically gather — such as baseball fields and basketball courts. However, walking trails and the open spaces of public parks are open and can provide ample room.

Walking, bicycling and hiking are three outdoor activities people can do while maintaining 6 feet of distance from other people.

If you’ve got your heart set on venturing a little further, know that the Bureau of Land Management has closed many of its popular recreational spots — including the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, Red Spring picnic area, and Sloan Canyon parking area. However, many lesser-known BLM-managed trails and open spaces are still open and accessible.

In a press release detailing the closures, the BLM reminds people to follow CDC guidelines about social distancing and not-touching-your-face. The agency also warns people should “keep in mind that if you get injured, medical response may be delayed or fewer resources may be available since many health care professionals and first responders are busy dealing with COVID-19.”

(So don’t get too far out of your comfort zone. Now’s not the time to get hurt, lost or stranded someplace new.)

Similar restrictions are in place for recreational areas overseen by the U.S. Forest Service.

As for Lake Mead Recreational Area, people are allowed to enter on foot, bicycle or wheelchair. Most trails and overlooks are still open. However, all roads, parking lots, facilities, marinas, beaches and camping areas are closed. Those closures came after the national recreational area reported twice as many visitors as is typical for this time of year.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.