BySaba Aziz Global News Posted April 20, 2021 7:00 am Updated April 20, 2021 11:13 am
In an effort to stem the tide of COVID-19, a blanket ban on outdoor recreational activities in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, has raised some questions about outdoor transmission.
Under tightened new restrictions that went into effect Saturday, Ontario ordered the closure of outdoor sporting facilities, multi-use fields and portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment. Picnic sites and tables were also closed.
But experts argue that the risk of COVID-19 spreading outdoors when compared to indoor activities is much lower.
“You know, you’re taking away the safe options from people as you do nothing to impact the places where the disease is spreading at a time when our ICUs (intensive care units) are literally collapsing,” Dr. David Fisman, a professor at the University of Toronto and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said.
Wearing masks has been a part of life for a year, but there’s a growing debate over whether they’re actually needed outdoors. Some argue that the constantly circulating air currents outdoors make mask-wearing outside unnecessary for preventing the spread of COVID-19 when you’re not in crowds, while others say there’s still a risk whenever you’re in the same vicinity as others.
Some countries and states are already loosening regulations on outdoor masking, fueling the debate. On Sunday, Israel dropped its outdoor mask requirement after COVID-19 cases went down significantly. Some 81 percent of eligible adults in the country are fully vaccinated. A growing number of states in the U.S. are also lifting mask mandates, leaving people in places like Colorado, Montana and Texas free to make their own decisions about masking up in public areas.
That raises a question: If given the choice, what should you be doing when it comes to mask etiquette outdoors?
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings and “anywhere they will be around other people.” Masks are also required outdoors (and indoors) in 26 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
But infectious disease doctors say that local regulations aside, you don’t necessarily need to wear a mask in every situation when you’re outdoors. “Outdoor masking in most ordinary circumstances is not going to provide extraordinary value,” infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. “If you’re in a crowd where people can’t social distance, masks make sense. But in ordinary outdoor environments, there’s not much value to it.”