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Wilderness Safety and... C-19 (REVISITED)

While I can appreciate REI 's, albeit scant... encouragement... to get outdoors "responsibly" during this C-19 pandemic, such lip service rarely conveys more than a modicum of useful detail. That has never been my habit. However, while we all want people to be safe, in town and country, I offer the following.  

Recently, in another thread, I mentioned how getting back out (to the wilderness) was a good thing both physically and psychologically. While that's still true, I was asked a very simple question by a very recent reader, "How?" (or rather, how so?) - I'll try to keep the science short so as not to strain anyone's attention.  

FIRST, BE SMART! (always)  

While, as I previously stated, our nearby wilderness access (here in Southern California) has reopened, at least one trail was immediately reclosed when authorities saw a favorite frontcountry, day hiking, destination (Sturdivant Falls) was crowded almost shoulder-to-shoulder. Watching the news, this seems to be the typical reaction to reopening efforts around the country (not surprisingly). NOT smart! The common RELEVANT refrain seems to be, "... we're outside... it's sunny... it's windy... yadda-yadda-yadda ...." 

Yes, while you're more likely to be infected inside, in an enclosed space, (like an office, a restaurant, or a bar), you can STILL get infected outside (C-19 does not die 'instantly' in sunlight, that may take well over a minute) and wind is NOT a shield (if you are in a restaurant, and the air is drifting to your table from an infected person, everyone at your table could likely be infected). As I said before, the real question is "viral load"! (in other words, how MUCH virus are you getting).  

If you are outside, that's good. If you are social distancing, very good. Wearing a mask, again, very good and well done. However, the longer you are near others, not wearing a mask, etc., outside or not, the more you negate the whole point to being outdoors!! Okay, so how is being outdoors healthy "physically and psychologically"?  

PHYSICALLY  

One thing that has not been mentioned on television, is vitamin D (the vitamin your body makes from the sun). Sure, exercise can release endorphins, dopamines etc., etc., which can make you feel good, and exercise is always good, but studies have shown there is a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI).

Moreover, while about 40% of Americans are D deficient, about 80+% of American Blacks are D deficient (about 70+% of Hispanics). And who is being hardest hit by C-19 in the US? Blacks! (yes, there may be socioeconomic factors, but more studies are needed).  

Vitamin D aids in the reduction of inflammatory cytokines (sp?) AND the increase of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Translation, the pneumonia-like condition that C-19 causes may be minimized with the help of the simple (and cheap) production and/or ingestion of vitamin D!!

Okay, so how much do you need? If you want the cheap and easy way, by getting some sun, whether you're light skinned or dark, you need about half as much sun as it takes for you to be sunburned (do NOT get sunburned!). How long it takes depends on how light/dark skinned you are and how bright/direct the sun is. If you want the off-the-shelf way, 25mcg per day should be sufficient.  

CAVEAT: It's fairly hard to mess up with vitamin D, but check with your doctor before beginning any regimen including in relation to C-19. All research is firmly pro vitamin D, and as to ARI generally, but more research is needed as to C-19 specifically (and you may yet hear about this soon), but like much regarding C-19, while they know a lot, they are waiting for scientific confirmation.  

PSYCHOLOGICALLY  

As I stated in my previous post on The Will To Survive, every one has a sense of self-determination which comes from three inherent base "needs": Control, the need to feel in charge of our decisions and destiny. Competence, the need to master skills, making people feel able and likely to make the effort to succeed. And Connection, the need to feel belonging or attachment. Whenever any of these needs are not met, we are hard-wired to try to fulfill it! To the point we may not understand it or even be aware of it.  

CONTROL is easy to understand, our Governor tells us we need to stay at home and we feel a loss of control. So, if we're smart, we fulfill our control need in other ways to compensate by organizing (or re organizing) our home, being creative, getting to projects we've been putting off, etc. If we're not smart, it emerges as frustration or anger, then we lash out at others to deal with the stress.  

CONNECTION should not be underestimated, we are hard-wired to be social creatures, it's a part of the reason we have survived as a species. But while survival ramps-up the body's stress systems, via the fight-flight-or-freeze response, loneliness intensifies stress by increasing stress hormones, impacting cognitive abilities, even feeding chronic inflammation and lowering immunity (both especially bad for a C-19 condition), so lonely people even suffer more from the common cold.  

Loneliness activates dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons (key to emotional well-being) in a brain region called the dorsal raphe nucleus, which activates with acute isolation, triggering the desire to re-engage. In fact, chronic loneliness is as toxic to your health and longevity as smoking about 15 cigarettes a day!! Fortunately, our survivor-self has ways to compensate including anthropomorphic (attributing human qualities to non-human things, think “Wilson” in the Tom Hanks movie “Castaway”).  

BOTTOM LINE  

So DO get outdoors, but DO be smart about it! The C-19 pandemic is NOT over, it is NOT under control, and WILL be here for as long as it takes for a vaccine to be made both safe and effective (estimates range from a year to two years. Otherwise, more deaths and more lock downs!!!  

A NOTE ON MASKS 

Most people I see are fairly good at wearing a mask, especially before the reopening. On the other hand, I've seen a number of people adjust and readjust their mask with their hands (contaminating both mask and fingers), lifting or removing the mask to eat, talk, or even sneeze or cough (that's EXACTLY when you should have your mask on!). One guy I saw was wearing a mask on his nose, not his mouth, AND singing, on a crowded bus! (singing and loud talking both expel more virus than normal talking). Is it any wonder why the US is "number one" in the world on C-19 infections and deaths??  

As I've been telling people since the beginning, and has been reported more often on television lately, YOUR mask does NOT protect you, it protects others FROM you! That's why it's important that everyone wears a mask. Moreover, a mask does NOT protect you from the virus, per se (there is no proof otherwise), unless perhaps if you wear something akin to a SCUBA mask, which has an airtight seal on the face. But your mask doesn't have to be airtight if those around you wear theirs!!  In fact, a mask doesn't even have to have a close fit, it just has to impede the velocity of your breath, voice, sneezing or coughing. THAT'S why it's okay to wear a Buff, bandana, scarf, or any other type of face covering (and why you should NOT be wearing/hoarding medical masks!!!)  

But your mask gets moist and your own breath stinks? (kidding, of course). Well, there are some partial solutions: As I said in the beginning, you can line the inside of your mask with a tissue, when the mask gets moist, replace the tissue (incidentally, medical professionals know to replace their entire mask when it becomes moist).

Or, you can leave your nose uncovered (preferably when you are alone), now, doesn't that let the virus out? Yes, it does, but exhaling through the nose typically lets FAR less virus out than exhaling through the mouth (because of the nature of the two types of breathing).  

Be smart, be safe. 

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