So I know this is somewhat off-topic (and you are probably all sick of reading about COVID-19), so admin please delete if inappropriate. But in my non-birding day job I’m a physician, bracing for the ramping up of COVID cases and the horrifying specter of lives lost to this disease.
It’s become abundantly clear that this is a disease that needs to be beaten on the public health front, not at the bedside. As a member of a wonderful, vibrant birding community, with many birders “of a certain age”. I feel the need to speak up a bit about our responsibilities to each other and to the country as a whole.
As we’ve all heard, social distancing is key, and birding can be a wonderful form of social distancing. However, it’s not social distancing when you are riding in the car with other birders who don’t live with you. It’s not social distancing when you are clustering in groups, and certainly not when you are sharing optics such as scopes. Anyone of us can be exposed to the virus through asymptomatic friends, so to restrict yourself to hanging out with people who have no symptoms is not enough.
Since this began, I have gone birding once with another person. We met at the site, having come in separate cars. We kept 6 feet distance between us at all times, and did not share any optics. If you are not following procedures like that, you’re not social distancing. It’s also obviously important at more popular sites to avoid touching handrails that other people could be touching, as the virus can live on surfaces for up to three to five days. Frequent handwashing and use of at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also crucial.
It discourages me when I look on eBird and see multiple people reporting the same group checklist from a site. Maybe I am wrong, and they are all arriving in separate cars and keeping distance between themselves, but I doubt that’s the case. We are at a tipping point in this crisis, and as an educated and caring group we need to commit to doing everything we can to stop COVID-19. If we lose one member of our birding community because of this virus, it will be a tragedy. Make no mistake, if we do not change our behavior, that is near certain.
I am happy to answer anyone’s questions to the best of my ability. I’m in frequent contact with Cape Cod Healthcare’s COVID-19 response team, keeping up with all of the latest on testing and management of cases.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me anytime. I’m also on FB and can be messaged there.
Thank you for reading,
Peter Crosson, MD
West Barnstable, MA