ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland authorities say they've begun receiving petitions from people and groups wanting to do everything from going golfing to taking out boats while coronavirus stay-at-home orders are in effect.
“It’s completely safe to be out on the water by yourself if you’re taking the normal boating precautions," said fishing guide Steve Chaconas of NationalBass.com.
Chaconas is among the fishermen and boaters who have been inundating Maryland's Department of Natural Resources with appeals and comments asking for modifications of Governor Larry Hogan's stay-at-home order.
“How am I violating social distancing when I go fishing, by myself, on my boat, from my house?” wrote Maryland fisherman Scott Sewell to his state delegate.
Chaconas says exceptions to rule allowing limited fishing "for sustenance" and allowing kayaking and paddleboarding because those activities are considered exercise are confusing and tempting many to bend the law.
“So what the order has done is actually turned law-abiding fishermen and outdoors people into people who are looking for a loophole or a way around the law," Chaconas said.
Maryland Natural Resources Police Superintendent G. Adrian Baker said officers are taking action and have written citations to alleged violators who do not comply with requests to obey the orders.
“If we see a recreational boater out there, yes we probably will stop and try and determine the nature of their business," Baker said. "There’s an exemption which allows them to be fishing for sustenance and that may be occurring on the boat. And quite frankly, people may try and find a loophole or bend the rules a little bit. But remember that’s not the intention. The intention is to make people safe.”
Baker said officers may also ask fisherman who are not from the immediate area to stop and go home.
"If you're not from the area and then you're claiming that you traveled so many hundred miles to come and fish because you need to catch fish in this spot so your family is fed, that's kind of a difficult argument to stand behind, I think. And so our officers are going to investigate and make the best decision they can."
Baker says the intention of Natural Resources enforcement is to keep people safe – not to write citations.
"If we come in a situation where there are people not practicing social distancing or there's a group of 10, we're going to be reasonable by first issuing verbal warnings," he said. "In most cases the public has complied. If they don't, then well have to take further action."
The golf community has similar complaints:
“Golf is the ultimate social distancing activity," posted one Maryland golf club on Twitter. “It’s played outdoors, spaced apart on roughly 200 acres”
But golf courses remain closed at the same time recreational trails have become congested with people running, walking and chatting.
Google data shows traffic in Maryland Parks us up 35% over normal.
The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission is now extending its closure of Sligo Creek Parkway this weekend in Takoma Park to make more room for people to spread out.
So what’s allowed and what’s not in Maryland?
Yes to biking, jogging, hiking, walking, and kayaking for exercise – keeping your distance and wearing a mask in public
No to golf, recreational boating and sport fishing – unless you really are trying to catch dinner.
Governor Larry Hogan has tried to keep it simple.
“No Marylander should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason," the Governor said in a tweet.
What precautions should you take?
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear a mask if you have to make an essential trip outside
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Reasons to leave your home under stay-at-home order:
- Grocery store trips
- Medical visits or trips to the pharmacy
- Travel to your essential job
- Exercise such as walks, hikes or bike rides
Commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection include:
- Shortness of breath
If you are sick or suspect you are infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the followings steps:
- Stay home except to get medical care
- Avoid public areas, including work or school
- Avoid public transportation
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
- Contact your doctor via telemedicine for more guidance