Outdoor exercise encouraged but not with other households

State and local public health officials have encouraged Bay Area residents to exercise outdoors during the region’s stay-at-home order, but doing so with people from other households is fully prohibited in most cases. Health officers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkeley issued the stay-at-home order Friday to prevent coronavirus hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions from reaching critically high levels.

The order shut down both outdoor and indoor operations for most non-essential businesses like restaurants, hair salons and barbershops, cardrooms and family entertainment centers.

Indoor activities at gyms and fitness centers were also curtailed under the order, allowing only outdoor fitness and dance classes in which participants are at least 8 feet from each other, wearing face coverings and not sharing equipment.

“You should not meet in-person with anyone you do not live with even in a small group and even outdoors with precautions,” Berkeley Public Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez said Friday during a briefing to announce the order.

“If you have a social bubble, it is now popped,” she says.

The five-county order pre-empted the state’s stay-at-home order, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday. The state’s order would have gone into effect once the region’s ICU capacity fell below 15 percent. As of Monday, the greater Bay Area’s ICU capacity sat at 25.7 percent, according to Newsom.

But despite the order closing most gyms and fitness centers entirely, Bay Area residents not participating in a fitness or dance class still have options to recreate safely. “Members of the same household are encouraged to maintain physical and mental health by safely going to a park, a beach, hike, walk or bike ride with members of their own household,” according to the state’s Department of Public Health.

That guidance, and the state and local orders as a whole, are intended to prevent social mixing, according to Newsom, who last week acknowledged the mental stress of remaining indoors for long periods of time. “We want to encourage activity, and activity that’s not focused indoors, not in congregate facilities, not where there’s a tremendous amount of mixing,” he said Thursday.

The California Fitness Alliance, a trade organization for the fitness industry, lauded Newsom Monday for allowing state residents to continue exercising outdoors, whether outside of a fitness center or on their own. “Access to exercise is especially important to combat the stress and emotions many struggle with during the holidays, which will be heightened this year due to the pandemic and limitations on travel and family gatherings,” the CFA said in a statement.

Private gatherings of any size are also not permitted both under the state’s pandemic health guidance and the Bay Area’s stay-at-home order.

That can include even meeting with people from another household in a park or other public outdoor space, even if everyone involved is wearing a face covering and social distancing.

“The top-line point of the regional stay-at-home order is the focus at staying at home,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday. “If it’s not essential for you to leave your home, if you aren’t doing one of the outdoor activities with your household with quite a bit of space between you and others, the point is to stay at home during this critical time to bring transmission rates down, to help us get this under control.”


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2 thoughts on “Outdoor exercise encouraged but not with other households

  1. I think the difference is whether there is someone who is in theory enforcing the masking, distancing, and hygiene. Piedmont kids are pretty good at following coaches safety instructions (although I hear a few of them complaining) but some of these same groups of kids when unsupervised are unmasked. Parents have not been reliable enforcers. Let’s hope that compliance well below 100% will still be helpful to our healthcare friends!

  2. Is it just my extended family that’s confused – and arguing – because the outdoor exercise portion seems contradictory? New rule 1) encourages outdoor exercise but 2) not with anyone who isn’t in your own household… but (plot twist) that’s prohibited in ‘most cases.’ Then another final plot twist, it appears that outdoor classes of exercise and dance (presumably with different households) are okay? Sheesh!
    “…encouraged Bay Area residents to exercise outdoors during the region’s stay-at-home order, but doing so with people from other households is fully prohibited in most cases.” and “…allowing only outdoor fitness and dance classes in which participants are at least 8 feet from each other, wearing face coverings and not sharing equipment.”

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