Birding during the Current Shelter-in-Place Order

Aaron Maizlish

Birding friends,

As most of you hopefully know by now, a joint order was sent out today by the Public Health Departments for San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin Counties and the City of Berkeley (which has its own public health department.).  The public health order instructs residents to Shelter-in-Place at their place of residence except for to conduct Essential Activities.  The order extends through April 7th, and makes it a misdemeanor to ignore the order.  The Public Health Order defines Essential Activities and defines appropriate Social Distancing Requirements that you must use when you are in a public space.

This is not the right forum to discuss and debate what will remain open and what will constitute an essential activity, and I’m not a medical professional or public health official anyway so you shouldn’t take advice from me. I will say however that it would be wise for you to read the notice that went out for your county rather than rely on social media and public opinion to tell you what you can and can’t do.  The notices (which are mostly the same by county) are clearly written. Take special note of the additional instructions for older people and people with health conditions.

For birding, it is important to note that outdoor exercise is covered as an allowable Essential Activity.  

a. For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following “Essential Activities.” But people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and people who are sick are urged to stay in their residence to the extent possible except as necessary to seek medical care...

iii. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, or running.

Put simply, if you are healthy and not at high risk for illness you are legally permitted to engage in outdoor activities provide that you maintain six foot distance from others and practice other sanitary practices as outlined in the Order.  Whether you choose to do so or not is up to you.  I expect we will all learn in the next few days what is considered socially acceptable.  Speaking for myself, I plan to do some birding in order to get out of the house and get some exercise (since the gym is closed anyway), but I will probably choose regional parks and rural beaches rather than city parks in order to maintain isolation.  Also, I don’t plan to bird with a group or engage in any other group activities outside of the home. I did get a notice last night from East Bay Regional Parks that all facilities will be closed, but all parks and trails will remain open.  This too could change day to day.

I hope that the opportunity to get some sunshine and to look at birds in spring migration will be a welcome break from the stress of living under quarantine. 

Here are a few of the Public Health Orders.

I hope you all find this helpful.

Stay healthy!

Aaron Maizlish
San Francisco, CA

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