Calgary officials are urging people to enjoy the outdoors and exercise — but while being highly cautious of the potential to put others in danger of catching and potentially dying from COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Emergency officials and the mayor called on Calgarians to strictly obey guidelines to stay away from other people, and to avoid busy parks, pathways and other public spaces.
"We need to be better than we are. I saw large groups of people walking in tight, tight bundles," Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Tom Sampson said at a news conference Monday.
"And I know that it feels good, because you're in the outdoors, but it's not. You do need to have the social distancing."
He said it shouldn't take the prime minister telling people for them to realize they have to follow the guidelines. He noted he took groceries to his neighbours on the weekend by dropping bags at the end of the driveway, and shouting to say hello.
Explore quiet streets
Lori Beattie, author of Calgary's Best Walks, said she encourages people stay off the widely used trails entirely.
"I suggest people start with their own community and neighborhood and start to explore it just on foot and see what's there," she told the Calgary Eyeopener. "Quiet side streets are a great place to go."
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She suggested taking the kids along to spot public art, for example, and to map out your route along less-populated roads that may offer beautiful views of the cityscape or river.
She pointed out that Sunnyside, Haysboro, Vista Heights, Nose Creek Pathway and Renfrew all offer interesting things to look at, but encouraged people to explore their own neighbourhoods first.
"This is a time to think about Calgary as your travel," Beattie said. "So instead of going to a new city and exploring, this is your new city."
She noted that people should consider moving onto the street, when safe to do so, in order to avoid walking too closely to strangers.
'Our turn' for sacrifice, mayor says
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that while activities are cancelled, "getting some exercise outside is not cancelled."
"Wave at your neighbours, put signs in your window for people walking by. That stuff really makes a difference," he told the Calgary Eyeopener.
But he reminded people that when they get home to not touch anything, wash hands thoroughly and change clothes. Also, Nenshi warned against inviting a friend over after a physically distant walk. He noted that people without symptoms may still be carriers.
Instead, he urged everyone to treat other people like their "90-year-old grandmother."
"Previous generations, our grandparents and our great-grandparents, were asked to make enormous sacrifices to keep the world safe," Nenshi said.
"And now it's our turn. But the sacrifice we're being asked to make is a very basic one. Stay home … and you'll save lives."
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Emergency officials have also suggested avoiding water fountains and park benches. They also warned Monday against exercising publicly to the point that you're panting, for example, on public staircases where others are nearby.
To further encourage safe outdoor activities, as of Monday, officials closed all city playgrounds. Officials noted that it's hard to ensure kids will avoid touching their faces after touching the unsanitized surfaces.