Riverfront Park Walking

People walk the trails at Riverfront Park in Hermiston in early May.

Outdoor recreation and sports, such as tennis and mini-golf, are considered lower risk activities for contracting COVID-19 than indoor activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How the virus is transmitted outdoors versus indoors is a major factor in assessing risk of contraction, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Umatilla County Public Health Director Joseph Fiumara said it is generally easier to spread the virus in confined spaces, especially in crowded settings with little air flow.

“Outdoor recreation is considered to be lower risk generally because there is more ability to stay distant,” he said. “Outside environments, with increased air flow, increased sunlight, decreased surfaces in which to hide, all help to reduce the risk.”

Although outdoor recreation is deemed lower risk, it is dependent on the space, duration of time spent in that space and how many people are there. Fiumara said it also depends on the sport or activity. If it’s a contact sport that makes it difficult to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet, then the sport is no longer considered lower risk.

“Activities with no/minimal contact or close proximity are considered to be the lowest risk,” Fiumara said. “As the proximity and contact increase, so does the risk. Additionally, strenuous activity/breathing may help to expel the virus further than day-to-day activities and may need additional physical distancing to counteract.”

Tennis, for example, is a low-risk outdoor recreation sport because the number of players are limited and there’s usually a safe distance between each player. This is a lower risk venture than some indoor entertainment and recreation opportunities, such as bowling and ice skating, where the air remains stagnant and the space is more confined, according to Fiumara.

Other outdoor recreation activities and sports that are permitted by the Oregon Health Authority under Phase 2 include tennis clubs, playgrounds, volleyball, youth clubs and summer camps.

The basic guidelines for the state of Oregon under Phase 2 includes limiting outdoor gatherings to 250 people or less, granted there’s enough space for appropriate social distancing measures.

However, there’s conflicting guidelines for different counties in Oregon, according to Fiumara.

He said the health department has been working closely with the cities of Hermiston and Pendleton specifically to help figure out the guidelines for their aquatic centers.

“The way some of the guidelines were rolled out was not all in concert with itself,” he said.

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