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What am I allowed to do outside this Memorial Day Weekend

For decades, Americans have celebrated the Memorial Day holiday with family and friends, gathering for barbecues and pool parties at the start of the summer season. But that was all before the age of the coronavirus, which has leveled any promise of large gatherings and most fun for the foreseeable future. Music festivals? Postponed. Marathons? Canceled. Memorial Day block party? Not a chance. This year, you'll need to figure out another way to enjoy the outdoors as Americans continue to wear masks and socially distance as the nation works to overcome the spread of the virus. Here, we've answered some of your most pressing outdoor summer questions.


Can I go to the beach? In San Francisco, yes, you can go to the beach. But there’s a caveat: You cannot park in any of the designated beach parking lots. You’ll need to walk or bike in. The same goes for open beaches in San Mateo County, including Half Moon Bay, Venice Beach and Montara State Beach. You can enjoy the sun if you live nearby. In Marin County, things are different. All national, state and county parks and beaches — along with their parking lots — are closed.

Can I lay down a blanket at the open beaches?  Sorry, not yet. State-run beaches in the Bay Area, like Montara State Beach and Half Moon Bay, are under a strict “keep it moving” policy, meaning locals who live nearby and want to visit the beach must actively be on a walk or run. Unfortunately, that means no sitting, sunbathing or picnicking, even with those you live with.  San Mateo County-run beaches, like Tunitas Creek, are a little bit more flexible, but you still can’t relax there. The county prohibits anything that would facilitate comfortable basking in the sun, including “umbrellas, shade structures, tents, coolers, chairs, hammocks, and other conveyances designed to sit and or lounge.” Beaches run by the National Parks, like Ocean Beach and Baker Beach in San Francisco, have the most wiggle room. The government hasn’t closed those federally-run beaches, it’s only closed parking lots and other facilities like, unfortunately, the bathrooms. So in short, you can go, you can lounge and play, but only for a while. 

Can I go to a park? Yes, but you should keep it to one that’s within 10 miles of your house and/or in your county. (The same goes for beaches.) Ideally, you won’t need to drive there, but most Bay Area health officers agree that it’s fine to get outdoors and sit on the grass as long as you practice social distancing and wear a mask as often as possible.  


Can I go fishing? Maybe, depending on where you live. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed high-traffic facilities and its licensing counters, but some areas of the Bay Area are open for fishing. Before you head to a CDFW facility, you’ll need to reach out to the agency’s Bay Delta Region (Region 3) at (707) 428-2002 or askbdr@wildlife.ca.gov to make sure you’re good to go.

Can I go for a hike with a friend if we both wear masks? It’s not encouraged, but yes, as long as the trail is open, and you remain 6 feet away from your companion (if you don’t live with them).  What other outdoor activities can I do with members of my household?  Broadly speaking, you can do most things exercise-related as long as you’re not sharing equipment with others you do not live with. That means only throwing frisbees or tossing cornhole beanbags with members of your household. The state of California has also issued a more comprehensive list of permitted activities: Athletics Badminton (singles) Throwing a baseball/softball BMX biking Canoeing (singles) Crabbing Cycling Exploring Rock Pools Gardening (not in groups) Golfing (singles, with carts) Hiking (trails/ paths allowing distancing) Horse Riding (singles) Jogging and running Kite Boarding and Kitesurfing Meditation Outdoor Photography Picnics (with your stay-home household members only) Quad Biking Rock Climbing Roller Skating and Rollerblading Rowing (singles) Scootering (not in groups) Skateboarding (not in groups) Soft Martial Arts – Tai Chi, Chi Kung (not in groups) Surfing Tennis and table tennis (singles) Throwing a football, kicking a soccer ball (not in groups) Trail Running Trampolining Tree Climbing Volleyball (singles) Walking the dog Washing the car Watching the sunrise or sunset Yoga

What outdoor activities can't I do? Well, unfortunately, right now there are many activities you can’t do. Gathering in general isn’t allowed, so there can be no parties or really any occasion where people might be touching the same surfaces or coming within 6 feet of each other.

Can I have friends over for a backyard barbecue if everyone stays socially distanced? Here’s where things get a bit complicated.  You shouldn’t partake in a backyard barbecue, as it’s not an essential task allowed by local county governments. The San Francisco Department of Public Health, for instance, said broadly that, “The best way to protect yourself and everyone around you is to continue to use face coverings, keep six feet of distance, and staying home.” But some medical experts say it’s okay, as long as it’s not attended by more than a few people, everyone stays six feet away from each other and no one shares cups or utensils. (Some experts have also recommended not sharing food, not because the virus can spread via food, because it means at least two people touching the same plate.)

Can I drink a beer on my front porch with a friend if we're six feet apart?  Again, this is another instance where individuals will need to weigh the risks and be cautious. The short answer: It’s not strictly legally prohibited, but it’s certainly not encouraged.  Back in late March towards the beginning of the shelter-in-place order, San Francisco Mayor London Breed addressed this specifically, saying those who “are out on the streets having drinking parties … socializing and coming together” are “putting lives at stake, you are putting public health in jeopardy.” But as the Bay Area has flattened the curve (for now) the rules have since been relaxed, and some cities, including San Francisco and Berkeley, are exploring ways to open up parking lots and large outdoor spaces for pop-up outside bars. 



Source: For other questions, check the state’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked QuestionsAlyssa Pereira is an SFGate digital editor. Email: alyssa.pereira@sfgate.com | Twitter: @alyspereira


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