6 safe things to do outside during coronavirus


Because so many people packed the coastline over the weekend, our beaches are now closing. So are our hiking trails, bayfronts, boardwalks and playgrounds.

As coronavirus cases in San Diego continue to rise, the county’s public health department is taking more extreme steps to keep people from gathering in large crowds.

So what do we do now? How do we get our recommended outside time while still following the rules of safe self-distancing? Here are some ideas.


Take a call outside

In the age of self-quarantine, phone calls, FaceTimes and Zoom meetings are at an all-time high. So next time you take a call, why not answer outside?

Grab your headphones (AirPods highly recommended, but any will work) and walk around the block as you chat with family, friends and co-workers. If you’re timid about taking audio or video calls in public, remember that the streets are a lot more deserted these days.

Even if you don’t live in a neighborhood with a lot of green, the movement, fresh air and change in scenery will likely boost your mood. And we’re betting the person on the other end of your video call would appreciate a break from seeing your house or apartment walls. (SB)


Grow outside

Stock photo
(Ronstik/ronstik -

If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space, you’re already ahead of the game. So put your green thumb to use and plant some flowers to beautify your space (and mindset), or some herbs to brighten up home-cooked meals.

It doesn’t need to be anything crazy, just a simple pot and soil and seeds.

Of course, they won’t grow immediately, but taking the time to nurture a seed into something viable and useful can be very calming and also make you feel like you’re contributing something positive to the chaotic world we live in right now.

Integrating plants or gardening into your daily routine can provide structure and can even be a great time to do some light meditating or praying, if that’s your thing. (JI)


Outside reading

If your self-quarantine space has a yard or a small park nearby, grab a book you’ve been meaning to read (or an issue of PACIFIC) and find a nice, shady tree.

You’re in luck if you find a bench, but make sure to clean it with a disinfecting wipe before you sit there. If it’s a sit-on-the-grass situation, look for an ideal tree, which means it has a trunk wide enough to rest your back and without ants crawling on it. OK, actually, probably every tree will have ants on it, so never mind. Bring a blanket, find a tree with enough shade to block out the sun, but not so shady that you get cold. There’s an art to finding a good reading spot. See how Rory Gilmore does it.

This process will eat up at least 30 minutes, then read for as long as you can go without checking your phone. (NG)


Stare at the clouds

It’s a stressful time, so remembering the games you used to play as a child can be comforting.

Remember the old one where you would stare at the clouds and use your imagination to make them into different shapes? One looks like an animal, another looks like a car, another looks like a flower. If you’re super creative, they can even look like people or celebrities.

Now’s the time to get back to basics and appreciate the simple things, so turn cloud-guessing into a game where you post photos and ask your friends to take guesses on what they are, in your mind.

This can be a fun and easy way to take your mind off things and unleash your imagination, and make you forget about shutdowns and quarantines, even if just for a little bit. (JI)


Create the outdoors, indoors

Plant illustration from L.A. Times

If your outdoor options are limited to concrete sidewalks and city buildings (I’m looking at you, fellow downtown San Diego-dwellers), getting your daily dose of nature is a little harder to do. So why not turn your indoor space into an outdoor oasis?

Fill your apartment or house with greenery to create the illusion of a backyard or park. Place plants and cacti throughout your house to mitigate restlessness sprung from shelter-in-place rules. (Bonus points if you place a few green friends in view from your WFH set-up.)

Some plants -- like English ivy, as well as snake and spider plants -- are thought to purify the air, so your lungs will thank you during this cooped-up time. And for self-proclaimed “plant-killers,” think about all of the extra time you now have to research how to take care of them ... and actually follow through on that care!

Unfortunately, many local nurseries have had to close their storefronts during the quarantine, but some are offering pick-up or delivery options like North Park Nursery and Mission Hills Nursery. (SB)


Ring bells

In neighborhoods around the world, people are showing support for health care workers by singing songs or ringing bells.

You can get this started on your street by inviting people via NextDoor to go outside at a specific time and, for a minute or two, make some noise. On my street, this happens at 7 p.m. All the neighbors step outside and ring and ring and ring. There are people out there I’ve never seen before, so along with sending support to all the workers, you can also meet new people (from afar) and have a daily check-in.

The challenge, though, is to actually find bells in your house. (Perhaps not an issue for those of you who have been doing lots of quarantine cleaning.) Good spots to look are Christmas decorations boxes, or if you have kids, a costume box. If there are absolutely no bells around, you can also clank a spoon or knife against a wine or beer bottle, or just ask your phone to play bell chimes sounds and hold it up in the air. In this case, it really is the thought that counts. (NG)