Testing for COVID-19 began in Blair County on Tuesday, with numbers still unreported as of Wednesday evening. However, encouragement to "stay home," and school and daycare closures, came as early as Mar. 13, leaving many families in their homes and out of their regular routines. Although some people have ventured outside for fresh air, agencies have started to encourage outdoor recreation.

“The best advice to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home, however being outdoors is good for your mental and physical health," the state Fish and Boat Commission said in a statement reporting that fishing is still allowed across Pennsylvania and may provide a break from the stress most people are feeling.

The Commission recommends that anglers abide by the six-foot "social distancing" rule and say children should be advised not to wander into the space of other anglers. It is advised that anglers refrain from carpooling and avoid sharing fishing gear. Anglers should also avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, and should clean their gear well after using it. They should also wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after fishing, and carry out any trash from a fishing site. 

The regular trout fishing season is set to begin Apr. 18 and run through Sept. 7, and bass is set for Apr. 18 through June 12. Other seasons are open year-round.

According to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania State parks and forests events are cancelled through at least Apr. 30 - all public meetings, educational programs, special events like races and festivals, and trainings for teachers and others. But, overnight accommodations like tent camping, cabins, and camping cottages will remain open.

As part of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, all buildings in state parks - including park offices, restrooms, campgrounds, cabins, all reservable facilities, and all forms of accommodations - are closed. The public will still be able to access trails, lakes, rivers, forests, roads, and parking areas for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking.

Fort Roberdeau County Park and National Historic Site grounds will remain open for outdoor recreation from 8 a.m. to dusk. Hiking and bird watching, and other recreational activities can be enjoyed at the site by individuals and small groups. The Fort has also cancelled all public programs, trainings, and events (such as its Exploring the Night Sky) at least through March.

Scout Troops have been planning hikes to meet Boy Scouts of America requirements. "Lots of boys need a few five-mile hikes," commented John Carr, leader with Troop 28 of Bellwood, who set up a hike for them this past weekend.

Also, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has clarified that it has not suspended nor altered any hunting season, regulations, or bag limits in response to the outbreak. Various posts online have shared false information. Spring gobbler season is set from May 2-30 with a season limit of two birds, and other seasons like quail, cottontail rabbit, ringneck pheasant, grouse, squirrel, and hare are open through Mar. 31.

Although entertainment choices may be limited, spring is here and temperatures are expected to get into the 60s soon - an ideal time to get out into nature for fishing, hiking, hunting, and other activities. 

Adeena Harbst can be reached at aharbst@thedailyherald.net.

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