All around the world the sudden emergence of the coronavirus, covid-19, has upended normal life and brought much of regular business to a halt. As scientists and experts rush to create a vaccine and cure for the highly-contagious virus, regular people like us are left with little to do besides shelter in our homes or go about our daily lives as carefully as possible. But practicing the “carefully as possible” parts can be difficult to remember, or it can all feel a little overblown and unnecessary. To help bring some clarification to these issues and find out what we should all be doing to stay safe and healthy, we spoke with blader and doctor Dave Tran who is currently in the NorCal area experiencing the crush this virus is causing within the medical community. But we all want to skate! So here is a brief look at what you can be doing to protect yourself and your family while getting out on your blades safely.
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Schools are closed, the economy is slowing, the world is sheltering in place, and you’ve been in the house for more than a week. The pandemic quickly shut down the world around us, turning big cities into ghost towns. As stress and uncertainty fill the air, many of us turned to a familiar coping mechanism: our skates. While skating through empty streets or searching for unprotected skate spots might sound like a good idea, you might be exposing yourself to a life threatening infection, or worse, bringing it home to your family. You might be asking yourself, what’s the right balance? How do I go skating without putting myself at risk?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep our community safe from the pandemic while finding creative outlets for blading. As a family physician who serves on a statewide public health committee, I’ve done medical missions in disaster zones and served in dangerous border towns while avoiding diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and cholera. Instead of telling everyone “don’t skate,” here are my tips to keep our community, ourselves, and our families safe while getting a few sessions in:
Check your local laws and regulations about social distancing. Most states have issued “shelter in place” orders at this point, meaning you need to stay indoors except for grocery shopping, going to the doctor, and going on short walks. In some places getting busted skirting these restrictions can mean a misdemeanor offense or a $1000 fine. It’s probably a bad time to try breaking into skate spots, schools, or other facilities that are locked down, and you could be contaminating areas that were just purposely sanitized.
Wash your hands. Hand sanitizer should only be used in a pinch. After 2-3 uses as residue builds up that can trap bacteria or viruses on your skin. Before and after skating, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure you’re getting the webs of your fingers, backs of your hands, and under nails.
Example: Watch this video
Busy trails are bad, empty trails are good. If you live in a place with lots of wide open space and it’s legal, by all means enjoy yourself. I recommend avoiding busy trails. You might be passing too closely to people or small crowds. Remember, you’re breathing their air, and you don’t know if they’ve been exposed to the virus or not. You could be rolling right through a cloud of viral particles after someone coughs or sneezes nearby. Keep your distance.
Avoid skateparks. Remember that children are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus (that means carrying the germs but not being sick), and while it’s less likely to kill them, they are more likely to transmit the virus amongst each other. In Italy, the old take care of the young, and that’s exactly why the virus hit so hard in certain parts of the world. Schools are closed for this exact reason. A lot of kids are turning up at the skatepark and they might be there falling, running into each other, and sneezing all over your favorite ledge when you’re not there.
Solo sessions are safe. A lot of people have been using this time to build practice rails and hone their skills. If you have a driveway or a garage, this is the perfect time to do some balance drills, learn edge control, experiment with weird setups, and learn how to use your switch foot. If you don’t have a rail or a ledge, try making one. If you don’t have cones, put tape on the ground. Picking up your homies to go film means exposing their household, and yours, so consider getting a phone tripod (or using the infamous shoe method) to record yourself. Use social media to keep in touch, get some live sessions going, or start your own game of BLADE online.
Wear extra protection. You might not look like your favorite pro, but a month ago nobody thought we’d all be wearing masks right now. In an addition to a helmet and shin guards, consider wearing a mask, especially if you’re crossing paths with other people. Helmets are been weirdly controversial in skating, but it’s a bad time to get injured, and you’re more likely to catch coronavirus if you end up in the emergency room or a doctor’s office after a fall.
To keep it simple: Wash your hands, stay away from crowds, and make sure you take every possible precaution to keep you and your household safe. Even if you’re relatively young and healthy, this virus spares no one, and we want to keep our close knit community of bladers safe through the pandemic.
Main image by Steve Steinmetz and Jon Fromm
Skating solo is my specialty