Even on a cloudy, chilly Tuesday, someone jogged, strolled or biked on seemingly every neighborhood street in Savage and Prior Lake this week.

Cooped-up Minnesotans are heading outside during the shutdowns and other restrictions the state has put in place to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We don’t usually, but we’ve all been stuck in our houses awhile,” said Ema Handzija, one of three Burnsville High School students walking around Savage’s O’Connell Park Monday. It’s the only way their parents are letting them hang out, she added.

Experts and local officials say time outdoors is OK during the pandemic, even a good thing, as long as social distancing carries over to the trails and sidewalks. That means no big groups or crowds, a good 6 feet between people and staying home while coughing or feverish.

Prior Lake, Savage, Shakopee and other cities’ parks and trails were still open this week, as were state parks and recreation areas. And going on walks, hiking and fishing are all perfectly fine under Gov. Tim Walz’s broader stay-home order going into effect this week, the governor said Wednesday.

Patricia Newman of Prior Lake said she and her dog, Sammy, often go on walks around Lakefront Park, but with her work slowing down, they’ve been heading out even more.

“I’ve always liked it, the peace and quiet and feeling of calm,” Newman said as woodpeckers and geese sounded overhead. The calmness can help cope with today’s anxieties, she added.

“It’s nice that it’s available.”

Going outside can go too far: Parts of the West Coast and elsewhere in the country have closed popular beaches and parks because of choking crowds that made social distancing basically impossible. The coronavirus spreads through coughs, particularly within a few feet of an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Local parks departments on social media warned visitors that playground equipment isn’t sanitized and recommended staying apart from each other.

Many locals said they took calls for distance to heart. At O’Connell Park, Dereck Richter said his 4-year-old son, Landon, and Landon’s usual gaggle of friends have stopped meeting for the time being. Richter said he’s told his son people can get sick and that keeping a distance is important.

“I think he gets it, but it definitely is hard,” Richter said.

Shakopee resident Tami Paul said she’s gotten a big, positive reaction on social media after suggesting that people do some good with their time outdoors and pick up trash.

She hadn’t made it a habit before but noticed more litter while walking her dog in recent weeks, Paul said. Now she’s led some of her kids at Riley Crossing Child Care in Chanhassen, where she works, in the activity, too.

“I’m hoping everyone can do it on their own, just in their block,” she said. “I think this quarantine thing is making people use their time in a different perspective.”

We want to hear about your experiences in the time of COVID-19, too. You can reach out at editor@plamerican.com or 952-345-6376.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.


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