With infection rates skyrocketing and hospitals once again overrun with Covid-positive patients, people are desperate for some good news. While the successful development of multiple vaccines provides the greatest source of comfort in these troubling times, there are other silver linings to consider.
For instance, our air is much cleaner. That’s because fewer cars are on the road, fewer freighters are crossing the oceans, and fewer jets are soaring through the sky.
Another upside to the pandemic is an uptick in people engaging in outdoor activities like walking, running, biking, and hiking. What else can they do these days?
All it takes is a quick look outside in broad daylight to see this development in motion. Equipped with sneakers, shoe inserts, smartphones, earbuds, and face masks, men and women are walking and running all over the place. Crosswalks have never been busier. Dogs have never been happier.
Helping drive the increase in outdoor activity across cities nationwide is the fact many street departments have closed multiple roads and thoroughfares to motor vehicle traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, scooterists, and skateboarders can all safely move up and down these avenues, encouraging more people to get outside and take part in the fun.
While it’s been considered safe for people to be around one another outdoors without worrying so much about wearing masks and social distancing, that’s changing as the weather gets colder. Lower humidity and drier respiratory tracts are a recipe for catching a common cold, let alone novel coronaviruses like COVID-19. As uplifting as it is to hear about the uptick in outdoor activity, many worries about the potential for spread under these conditions.
The solution might end up being an across-the-board mask mandate that includes wearing them outside. Only then can public health officials worry less about the potential for coronavirus to spread amongst individuals outdoors.
Another thing to consider is whether or not the uptick in outdoor activity is here to stay. When things get back to normal, will people still spend an increased amount of time walking, running, and doing other activities outside?
We’re cautiously optimistic. It’s worth noting nobody is expecting the reduction in carbon emissions to last beyond the pandemic. Once people are back to being able to do the things they used to do, will they find time to be more active?
Perhaps the answer lies in whether or the pandemic has sparked a renewed interest in health and wellness among the greater population. If more people are interested in living healthier lives as a means to fight against infectious disease, then-current levels may hold. Since old habits die hard, we won’t hold our breath.
2020 has been a year of major changes. Most of them revolve around the ongoing pandemic. While the majority are unwelcome, there have been a few positive developments to arise from these uncertain times. One is the cleaner air. The other is more people spending more time outside. Will they outlast the pandemic? Time will tell.
One thing is for certain: 2021 will start off the way 2020 ends. It will be a question of whether or not it ends differently.