On March 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order that prohibits social gatherings and non-essential business in Washington for at least two weeks. On April 2, he extended the order through at least May 4.
Guidelines during this pandemic are changing so fast. What does this order mean for families with kids around Seattle and across the state? Can we still go outside?
“Stay home” sure sounds like families are not supposed to leave the house. But this is not the case! In his televised address on March 23, Gov. Inslee said that getting outside for fresh air and exercise qualifies as an “essential activity” and is therefore allowed.
Going outside is not only allowed, it is, in fact, encouraged — for the physical and mental health of both kids and adults.
So what can families do? Gov. Inslee specifically mentions in the order the following encouraged activities: walking, hiking, running and biking. But these are not the only activities families can do.
Families can throw a Frisbee, practice cartwheels, juggle a soccer ball, play tag or fly a kite. Look for birds, smell the flowers, walk your dog, ride scooters, plant a garden, chase pigeons or play a lawn game. (Our family likes Viking Bowling!)
Here's the important part: You need to do this stuff with only your own family, not with other people. Kids and families must practice social distancing and not gather in groups.
The other important thing to remember is what's open and what's closed. In most Seattle-area municipalities, park spaces and trails are open — but double check where you are. Playgrounds, athletic fields, picnic shelters and other facilities — including restrooms — are generally closed. It may still be okay for individual families to play catch or kick a ball on athletic fields, while practicing social distancing, of course, if other families are doing the same thing in another part of the field.
Update: In a head-scratching move, Seattle Parks closed parking lots at some of its largest parks, though the parks grounds remain open. The affected parks are Green Lake, Lincoln Park, Golden Gardens, Magnuson Park, Gas Works Park, Seward Park, Discovery Park and Alki Beach. The parking lot closures begin March 25. Seattle Parks indicated city residents should visit their neighborhood parks, but many neighborhood parks are too small to provide the wide-open spaces needed for social distancing, or for families to pursue the exercise activities specifically encouraged by Gov. Inslee.
More status updates:
- Washington State Parks: most have reopened as of May 5, after being closed since March 25.
- Washington State Department of Natural Resources-managed lands have reopened as of May 5.
- King County Parks are set to reopen May 8.
- Most Puget Sound-area cities' parks are open, but double check in your town.
- Road access to Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park is closed; federally managed lands (such as forest service lands) are also closed.
- Seattle closes major parks Easter Weekend.
- Seattle closes some neighborhood streets to cars for "Stay Healthy Streets."
- The City of Puyallup reopened trails for individual recreation, as of April 25; note that parks, restrooms and facilities remain closed and that social distancing must be practiced while using trails.
Check out some ideas below for getting outside and staying active with your family — it can only help during these anxious times.