British Columbia

'Please, go outside': COVID-19 much less likely to spread outdoors, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

The chance of catching COVID-19 from someone coughing as they walk past you in a park is "infinitesimally small," B.C.'s provincial health officer said Wednesday.

'The risk would be infinitesimally small if somebody walks by you,' but it's important to keep your distance

Park ranger Nicole Setterlund patrols an intersection to warn people about physical distancing in Vancouver's Stanley Park on April 15, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The chance of catching COVID-19 from someone coughing as they walk past you in a park is "infinitesimally small," B.C.'s provincial health officer said Wednesday.

During her daily briefing on the pandemic, Dr. Bonnie Henry said people should still feel comfortable spending time outside, as long as they stick with members of their household and keep a two-metre distance from others.

"The risk that somebody who is sick spreads this virus from coughing or sneezing outside and you walk by them very quickly, even when it is within six feet, that risk is negligible.... We always say 'never say never' in medicine, but the risk would be infinitesimally small," Henry said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Henry has encouraged people to safely enjoy B.C.'s outdoor spaces in the company of immediate family members, saying that going for walks and spending time in parks is important for mental health.

At the same time, she says she's been following the research on how the novel coronavirus spreads.

"There is one study that we've been looking at that looks at [318] different clusters and there was a single one that's associated, perhaps, with people in close contact outdoors," Henry said.

The real risk comes inside, where it's much easier to be exposed to the droplets from coughs and sneezes that might carry the virus. Transmission is most likely to happen when people are spending time in close contact with each other in enclosed spaces, during dinner parties or meetings, Henry said.

She cautioned that anyone who is feeling sick should stay at home, but as long as the proper precautions are taken, everyone else should feel comfortable being outside.

"Right now we, need to be very cautious. We need to be kind to each other," she said.

"Please, go outside. Go outside with your family, but stay away, keep your distance. Smile, talk to your neighbour, wave to them, be supportive of each other, but do it in a way that maintains that distance."

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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