Coronavirus: Covid-19 Updates in the Blue Ridge and Beyond

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Updated on March 18

There’s no escaping news of the coronavirus, which has swept its way across the globe. The outdoor industry, of course, isn’t immune to the rapidly changing impacts. Here, we’ll continue to offer outdoor-related updates on events and destinations affected by COVID-19.

Trail etiquette in the time of COVID-19

School closures, social distancing, quarantines… it’s stressful out there right now. But if there’s one bright side in all of this, it’s that nature is still open and she’s more comforting than ever. While it’s wise to avoid crowded places, there’s no reason to stop hitting the trails—you’ll just need to take some extra precautions to protect your health and the health of other hikers. 

Here’s some advice for hiking in the time of COVID-19:

  1. Wave and say hello

There’s a good chance you’ll have the trail to yourself most of the time, but when you do encounter other hikers, wave and say hello. There’s no reason not to stop for a chat if you want to, just make sure you stay at least six feet away from your fellow hikers.

  1. Give right of way to hikers going uphill

If you happen to encounter another hiker on a narrow trail, remember that right of way is usually granted to the hiker walking uphill. If you’re the downhill hiker, try to find a spot—like at a switchback—where you can scoot out of the way and allow the uphill hiker to pass at a safe distance.

  1. If you’re hiking with a friend, don’t share food and water

It probably seems pretty obvious, but if you’re out for a hike with a trusted friend, social distancing rules still apply. That means no sharing of water bottles or eating from the same bag of trail mix. 

  1. If you feel unwell, stay home

Of course, if you feel unwell in the slightest, save the hike for another day. If we all play it safe and smart, we’ll have plenty of time to hike in the future. 

The spread of COVID-19 causes REI to temporarily shuts its doors 

Outdoor retailer REI has announced that they will temporarily close all 162 of their retail stores nationwide until March 27. Employees will continue to be paid during this time. If you want to shop for outdoor gear online (because, remember, it’s still safe to go outside!), REI will provide free shipping while their stores are closed. 

“I believe this is the right thing for our community,” said President & CEO Eric Artz in an email. “In fact, I believe it is our duty—to do all we can to help keep one another safe during this unprecedented moment.”

ATC Visitors Center in Harpers Ferry is closed until at least March 20

The Appalachian Trail visitor’s center in Harpers Ferry, WV, has closed its doors until at least March 20 in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has also cancelled the 2020 Flip Flop Festival. Flip Flop thru-hikers are still welcomed to begin or end their hikes at the ATC headquarters. Should the visitor’s center still be closed, the ATC is asking thru-hikers to take a selfie in front of the ATC sign and send it, along with their name and starting date, to info@appalachiantrail.org

The ATC asks any Appalachian Trail hikers diagnosed with COVID-19 while on the trail to submit an incident report at appalachiantrail.org/incidents, detailing when you got sick, when and where you got off the trail, and any other helpful details. 

Comment period extended on proposed Active Energy Renewable Power permit 

The public comment period on an air permit application from Active Energy Renewable Power in Lumberton has been extended to Friday, March 27. 

The public meeting originally scheduled for Monday, March 16, at the Bill Sapp Recreation Center has been cancelled based on the current guidance to avoid large gatherings to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. A video presentation about the draft air permit for the proposed facility is available for the public to view here

The Division of Air Quality will consider all comments submitted by March 27 before taking final action.

TO SUBMIT COMMENTS:

China closes access to Mt. Everest

In an attempt to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to base camps around Mt. Everest, China has announced they will close access to the sides of the mountain within its borders, dashing the hopes of climbers that planned to summit the mountain this year. In response to the news, companies that run summit expeditions, such as Tahoe-based Alpenglow Expeditions, have announced they are canceling all planned summit expeditions for the season. “While cancelling a climb is never the outcome we want, this time, it’s the responsible thing to do,” Alpenglow Expeditions CEO Adrian Ballinger said in a statement.

Forest Service cancels public meeting on Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest management plan

The National Forest Service has canceled the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest plan meeting that was scheduled to be held tonight at the Arborteum in Asheville. While the in-person meeting won’t take place, the iheartpisgah organization is collecting comments via their website at www.iheartpisgah.org and www.iheartcraggy.org

American Alpine Club cancels its annual dinner

Amid coronavirus fears, the American Alpine Club has canceled its annual dinner, which was set to take place in Denver on March 13. In lieu of the in-person event, the organization will host a virtual experience instead. “It was a really difficult decision,” AAC CEO Phil Powers told SNEWS. “We felt like we really could have managed a safe event, but we decided to do this because we wanted to participate in good decision making during this crisis.” 

Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K Moved to September

The Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K, a staple of the Southeastern running scene that takes place every spring in Richmond, Va., has been postponed from its original date of March 28. The race, which brings 25,000 runners to the streets of Virginia’s capital city, will now take place on Saturday, September 26.The change comes after Mayor Levar Stoney and the City of Richmond released new guidelines recommending the postponement of large events in Richmond due to COVID-19.

“This has been a challenging week and we’ve worked hard to navigate rapid changes and prepare for all possible scenarios. Health, safety, and security are top priorities for our events and we appreciate the guidance from Mayor Stoney and our public health and safety officials,” said Meghan Keogh, event director of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K in a statement “We’re thankful for the support and understanding of participants, volunteers, sponsors, and spectators and we look forward to the opportunity to put on a great event on September 26.”

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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