Everyone understands the severity of this virus and the majority of people agree that measures imposed to restrict the spread are vital, but today reinforced my view that we also do need to apply some common sense.
Here in Crete, the current rule states, ‘Mandatory use of face masks in indoor and outdoor public spaces.’ Earlier, as I was about to embark on a run, this ruling raised some interesting discussion in our household. Mask or no mask?
Picture the location: I was up a fairly remote mountainside, with the exception of a smattering of houses – some occupied, others not. The landscape is largely untouched, where proud olive trees stand collectively in the fields, fields which are separated by low walls made up of precarious piles of stones. The bell tinkering of the sheep, who roam daily in a nearby field at sunrise and sunset, had silenced. The lonesome farmer had already moved them on. Looking around across the expanse of the land, I saw no one. It was here, on this mountainside, that I would begin my run. First along a deserted dirt track and then on a trail that would lead me down the hill – down a quiet tarmac road which sees very little action.
My initial thoughts were how could I possibly run with my nose and mouth covered with a mask – the temperature was already in the mid 20s and a full sun was shining. However, as I pondered further, I realised that if I didn’t, strictly speaking I would be breaking the ruling. I mulled over what I perceived to be the madness of running in a mask; the idea of exercising and thus breathing heavily whilst constricted by a fabric covering didn’t sit well in my mind. And yet, to fully comply with the ruling, anyone out in public should wear a mask. Surely this is where common sense had to come in?
The CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) states that ‘masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people’. As we all know, Covid-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet or 1.83 metres to be precise) and the importance of mask wearing where people are close to each other is clearly understood. The chances of me coming in close contact with anyone on this run was next to none. In fact, not next to none, it was none. If I was to meet another soul walking or running then we could easily maintain the distance of the road width (approx 3-4 metres) should we happen to pass each other.
I pondered further on the ruling versus common sense. After about 2 km, I would have to pass through a tiny village (with one small local convenience store and a taverna) and then a second village, which although larger, would still be fairly empty due to the early hour. Continuing downhill, I would eventually reach the quiet sea resort of Almyrida, which sits nestled in a gentle and quieter-than-normal bay. Here I would end my run. Here I would mingle with the somewhat despondent local employee in a cafe who, if his establishment was lucky enough to be selected, would be tending to the odd tourist seeking breakfast. August had ended, holiday makers had left – or not even arrived, the place was quiet.
After much thought, I decided to carry my mask as I ran. That way, should I meet anyone along the way, I could easily put it on at a safe distance before we crossed paths. I decided that I would wear the mask when going through the villages, but not along the deserted road. And so finally I set off.
For the first kilometre, despite not meeting a soul, I felt an element of guilt. I almost expected a police officer to stroll out from behind a prickly pear cactus as if waiting to catch me! Just before reaching the first village, I did actually pass an older lady who was strolling up the hill on the opposite side of the road. For the record, she wore no mask. This made me feel a little easier; I wasn’t the only one who was applying some common sense in our remote surroundings. In fact, she was the only pedestrian I passed for the entire five kilometre route. It was that remote.
As I reached the second larger village, I stuck to my decision and slowed to a masked walk. The tavernas had not yet opened and the local store was empty so other than a couple of cats, I was the only life form on the road. I suspect that many would consider me a touch over cautious; others perhaps not. Once through the village, I unmasked (keeping it close to hand) and continued down the twists and turns of the silent tarmac, yet still on the lookout just in case my sweaty undressed face met another. Soon, however, I arrived at the beach, masked up and headed for a well earned breakfast. Whilst contemplating my journey down the mountain, I released a final sigh of leftover guilt mixed with a feeling of ridiculousness at my worry of breaking a rule which was based on close human contact of which I had none.
Upon returning to the house, I googled a little further and was pleased to find that the CDC have a section entitled, ‘Feasibility and Adaptations’ which suggests that mask wearing is not always possible in all situations. It mentions running and suggests, ‘…conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others.’ So after my initial concerns, my subsequent research and the sight of another lonesome maskless runner later in the day, I am content with my decision to be a law abiding citizen whilst applying an element of common sense.