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Social distancing amid coronavirus outbreak doesn't mean staying inside

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Events have been canceled, sports are called off, people are being encouraged to be “socially distant.” Coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe.

But staying away from your closest 100 friends doesn’t mean you need to stay in your house, said Dr. Mark Dowell, a specialist with Rocky Mountain Infectious Disease and a Natrona County health officer.

“I want people to go out, exercise, try to normalize their lives as much as they can and not become hermits,” he said. “It’s unhealthy emotionally.”

Staying inside – assuming you are otherwise healthy and symptom free – may also make you more susceptible to illness.

“Vitamin D is helpful for immune systems. And we know if people become depressed, or if they have depression and their depression worsens, then their immune function is compromised,” he said.

Go for a hike, he encourages, or a bike ride, or run, or ski, or snowshoe. Whatever you are able to do outside, go outside and do it.

Viruses like coronavirus or the seasonal flu spread through human interactions, he said, which is why seasonal flu cases tend to taper off in the summer. The virus doesn’t blow in the wind, and any outside areas like picnic tables or playgrounds are fine as long as people who use them wash their hands afterward.

“In the summer, there’s less fresh meat [for the virus]. People are outside, and it doesn’t have the opportunity to pass around from person to person like it would at a basketball tournament,” he said. “If it doesn’t have the same number of hosts to infect, it won’t spread through the community like it would in the winter.”

He added that by changing events – cancelling large gatherings of people indoors, for example – health officials are trying to mimic summer without summer actually being here yet.

“Act like it’s summer and go outside,” he said, as long as you don’t have a respiratory infection or other symptoms. “Go on long walks and help your body and brain.”

To help give you ideas of where to go, the Star-Tribune talked with outdoor experts around the state to compile a list of options no matter where you are.

Central Wyoming

Rock climbing in Sinks Canyon near Lander is “prime,” said Joan Chase with Wild Iris Mountain Sports. The wall is a sunny sanctuary for anyone who needs to go outside. Johnny Behind the Rocks and the Bus, both areas with extensive trail networks, are beginning to melt off and are dry in higher areas. Gullies could still be wet and muddy. The Nordic Center at Beaver Creek is groomed and perfect for skiing right now, and the snowshoeing is also ideal. “A 15 minute or half-hour drive could get you to any conditions you want,” she said.

In the Casper area, people should think about the many miles of paved pathways running along the North Platte River and near Casper College up to the base of Casper Mountain, said Bryan Soliz with Zeelos Cranks and Planks in Casper. Nordic skiing on the mountain is also still good. Also consider many of the city’s parks and public land with playground equipment for kids, trails and other recreation areas.

Southwest Wyoming

The Nordic skiing around Pinedale is still in good shape, as are some of the snowshoe trails. People can also fish the Green River.

There’s a nice hike up to the waterfall on White Mountain near Rock Springs. Consider a trip into the Red Desert to see Boars Tusk or look for petroglyphs. The main road is gravel, but check weather for changing conditions. Anyone in Rock Springs could also think about the Firehole Archery Range, Expedition Island or even soccer goals at local parks and frisbee golf, said Mar Centers, manager at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Rock Springs.


Skiing conditions in the Big Horns are fantastic, said Luke Todd with the Sport’s Lure in Buffalo. Nordic ski areas are groomed and doing well and Antelope Butte and Meadowlark downhill resorts are also offering snowy runs. Plus, the days are longer and it’s a little warmer. Fishing on Clear Creek and Piney Creek near Buffalo could also be worth trying as ice melts and hungry fish start feeding.


It’s still winter in the northwest corner of Wyoming, with mountains around Cody covered in snow, said Natalie Bailey with Sunlight Sports in Cody. Much of the lower elevation trails are muddy or snow-covered, but skiing and snowshoeing is worth it.


Visit Curt Gowdy or Glendo state parks for miles of trails. Conditions will vary between dry to icy and muddy, so be prepared. But tables offer a respite for picnics in the sun. Vedauwoo near Laramie has plenty of rocks for scrambling on and the Snowy Range still offers deep snow and opportunities for Nordic and downhill skiing and snowmobiling.

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