Stop the shame in Seattle’s parks
And you might have wondered: am I going to my favorite park – or am I going back in time to last March? In 2021, as Seattle residents get vaccinated and the science of COVID-19 transmission becomes even more focused, it’s time to end the implicit threats of park closures and parking restrictions. They made a lot more sense during the uncertainty of Spring 2020 than they do now. We should also relax a bit about people crossing paths on walking trails or having a picnic on the beach, as recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts.
The pandemic is not yet over and King County may need to return to Phase 2 to complete it, but at this point we can stop pretending that outside interactions play a big role in its perpetuation. If anything, we should probably be telling people to socialize as much outdoors as possible, so that we can keep transmission low while the rest of the population gets vaccinated.
But Seattleers have received mixed messages on that front. In mid-April, for example, Public Health – Seattle & King County echoed Gov. Jay Inslee’s message with Tweeter that we should #TakeItOutside, “whether it’s having coffee, going for a walk with an old friend, or whatever hobby you have going on.” “
You should “move any activity you’ve planned outside,” urged the account.
Just days before this post, however, Seattle Parks and Recreation took on a very different tone on social media, Tweeter that it would be a question of “collecting data in the parks to determine whether the parking [and] park hour limits will be required in the near future.
âNobody wants a repeat of last summer,â Seattle Parks warned.
So what is it: should we go outside – or should we avoid some of our biggest and most popular parks to avoid further restrictions? And why is the city still threatening to close parks on certain park signs at a time when Seattleites are already – judging by my nightly walks through Capitol Hill – pushing the capacity limits of many bars to the max. and restaurants, engaging in what is essentially one of the riskiest activities for unvaccinated people?
Science clearly favors the outdoors: Outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is rare. Passing someone on the sidewalk is low risk. Prolonged, unmasked face-to-face contact can still spread COVID-19 outdoors, but otherwise it’s very difficult to transmit the virus the kind of day that sends Seattle residents flocking to parks. A park that may seem crowded can still be full of people are not breathe directly into the other’s unmasked mouth.
In light of the low risk of transmission outdoors, the CDC relaxed some guidelines earlier this week, noting that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors, unless they are be in a large crowd. Unvaccinated people should always mask themselves at outdoor gatherings with other unvaccinated people, the CDC said, but in a county where more than 40% of residents over 16 have already received all of their vaccines – and nearly two-thirds received their first dose – all – Vaccinated encounters are quickly becoming our new normal.
Given these trends, I think we all know Seattle’s parks won’t be closed. miles per hour in the left lane of a freeway – so why even invoke the specter of closures?