How To Not Be An Asshole In Colorado During the Pandemic

As stay-at-home orders slowly lift, restaurants start to re-open and the weather entices us outside for adventures, it might feel easier to forget about the global pandemic and the precautions we should all take going forward. Don’t be that asshole. Instead, follow these simple etiquette guidelines whether you’re ordering take-out in the city or camping for a night in the mountains.

General Etiquette

Social Distancing

Colorado’s Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre (right) and nationally recognized artist-activist Suzi Q Smith (left) discuss ideas for displaying poetry on Hope Tank during the quarantine. Photo by Marla Keown

For those of us who appreciate our personal space, the social distancing requirements set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might even be pleasurable. But for those who never minded jostling around in a busy crowd of people, this new norm may come as a burden. The truth is that the requirement isn’t asking that much, especially in a place like Colorado where the population density isn’t as saturated as say New York City or Venice. Six feet apart from the next person is about two arm lengths. Most of the time, this distance is easy to enact.

Some examples of opportunities to properly socially distance in a daily routine are stepping (safely) off the curb to let someone else walk by on the sidewalk, crossing to the other side of a street if one side is busier or waiting to get out of your car if someone is nearby.

Wash Your Hands

Photo by Eric Minbiole via Flickr

It seems like such a simple task to ask everyone to do to stay healthy and yet almost every major publication in the US has felt compelled to write an article explaining how to wash your hands. The gist is that you want to do it for at least 20 seconds and you want to do it well — covering every inch in soap and water and scrubbing under nails and between fingers. How not to wash your hands is a light rinse of water followed by a thorough rubbing on your pants.

And washing your hands once a day isn’t enough. Basically, you need to do it at every interval in your day when your location changes. Wash them before you leave your house to protect others from your germs, wash them after touching doorknobs and car keys and definitely wash them once you return home. Although there are not many situations for people to publicly shame others for not washing their hands (save for the bathroom), it goes without saying that anyone who complains about washing their hands so much should feel shame anyway.

Check out this explanatory article in The New York Times for a lot more information about washing your hands.

Wear A Mask

Denver author Kali Fajardo-Anstine wearing a mask. Photo by Amanda Piela

Fashion statement or not, wearing a mask is going to be in season for a while now. Denver is operating under a mandatory mask order until further notice since May 6, 2020. It is now a recommendation backed by science that wearing a mask reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others. This study, shared by Governor Jared Polis, explains how droplets from your mouth can either fall to the ground or “dehydrate and linger as ‘droplet nuclei’” in the air surrounding you after you speak. By wearing a mask, those droplet nuclei are contained, thereby decreasing the risk of your droplet cloud infecting others should you carry an infectious virus or disease.

READ: What You Need to Know About Denver’s Mandatory Mask Order

Of course, the key to wearing a mask is doing it properly, much like washing your hands. Once you have a mask on, do not take it off carelessly or pull it down under your nose or chin. Wearing your mask like a neck warmer serves only one purpose — to keep your neck warm. Masks are not required at all times when outdoors, but it’s good to always have one handy in case you find yourself in a place where social distancing isn’t possible or easy to accomplish.

Outdoor Etiquette

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These days, first come first served is the best foundation to base your outdoor activities around. Getting outside and enjoying the summer isn’t outlawed, but doing it with a crowd of strangers is highly frowned upon. If you want to take a hike, go camping, biking, rafting, swimming or even just for a picnic in the park, you should always do so with the acknowledgment of who else (and how many) are doing the activity. For instance, if you show up at a trailhead and the parking lot is full, try a different trailhead or parking lot rather than parking on the road and overloading that trail with more people. Next time, should you really want to go on that particular hike, try arriving earlier and being one of the “first served.” Most of the time, these activities will allow significant space from other humans, making them suitable especially in these times of social distancing requirements. But there are a few things that will make you “that asshole” if you don’t think ahead.

READ: How To Not Hike Like an Asshole

Camping and Hiking

  • Buy your gas and supplies before leaving home. Instead of waiting to get to the grocery store in a small town off Highway 285, take a trip to your regular grocery store and pack the cooler ahead of time. Stopping in small towns and going into stores that are essential to locals is irresponsible and highly increases their risk of contracting the virus. They didn’t ask you to come to their town, so don’t overstep your already-tenuous welcome.
  • Don’t expect bathrooms to be available. Get ready to go to the bathroom outside, because with limited services at campgrounds and trailheads, those pit toilets may not be available. So be prepared, regardless if you’re staying overnight or just completing an afternoon hike. Peeing is easier, but if you’re going for the deuce, you’ll need to dig a “cathole” and pack out any toilet paper you use.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and a mask. Use before and after touching something that other people touch. Yes, you’re roughin’ it, but that doesn’t mean infectious disease ceases to exist. Same goes for a mask — if you’re in a situation where it’s absolutely necessary to make a pit stop or you need to talk to a ranger, it’s important to have one handy.
  • Wear a bandana around your neck. Many trailheads have signage right now urging people to wear a mask or bandana when passing or encountering other hikers or backpackers. On lightly trafficked trails, this added precaution may be unnecessary. But on trails that are narrow or crowded, a bandana slipped over the nose and mouth is easy to do and doesn’t hamper breathing too much.
  • Use extra caution. Global pandemic or not, any trip into the backcountry should be planned, organized and executed with caution and knowledge of your own limits and ability. But especially during a pandemic, being fully informed and prepared before hiking or camping lessens the likelihood that you’ll need help from others — like emergency first responders, backcountry rescue volunteers, other hikers or campers and locals who live nearby.

Exercising Outside

  • Don’t run through a group of people. Since you’re the one spraying the most droplets (see droplet nuclei mention in the wear your mask section above) from your mouth and nose, it’s only common sense that you should avoid other people rather than running right next to them. Let’s face it, you are obviously nimble on your feet and want the exercise anyway. So avoid crowded areas at peak times (like RiNo on a Saturday afternoon) and find some space.
  • Cross the street. Almost everyone in the city has taken up walking, jogging or biking. So even if you’re actively avoiding crowded areas you’re likely to run into someone. If you see someone on the street ahead, whoever reaches the intersection first should cross to the other side. This way neither one of you has to stand in the street in order to observe social distancing.
  • Stop using playground equipment as your gym. At one time, before ‘rona, a children’s playground was as good as a free outdoor gym. But these days, no one wants to see a sweaty person manhandling the monkey bars that are supposed to be closed to everyone anyway.

Days at the Park

READ: The City of Denver Has Issued New Rules For Park Use
  • Visit parks in your neighborhood. Instead of driving to Cheesman or Wash Park for a sunny afternoon, visit a park close to your house. Try to go to one of these secret Denver parks for an even more socially-distanced day.
  • Don’t put your blanket right next to someone else. Imagine that each person has a bubble around them that cannot be penetrated and that will help you navigate into an area with enough space for everyone to enjoy the fresh air.
  • Don’t play organized sports with strangers. When professional sports teams stop playing together, it should be a sign that you should stop too.
  • Pack in, pack out. Much like hiking and backpacking guidelines for Leave No Trace, when you spend a day at the park you should make sure to take everything you brought back home with you. No one else should have to touch things you left behind (and anyway, littering makes you an asshole, too).

Indoor Etiquette

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After all the toilet paper hoarding of March and April, it’s safe to say that not everyone understands what is most important during a global emergency. It’s apparent, with a casual scroll through Reddit for instance, that some people have turned into monsters while out completing their essential tasks. The number one thing to remember is that the employees of these stores deserve the right to stay healthy, especially if that is achieved through mask-wearing and social-distancing carried out by customers.

Grocery and Retail Stores

  • Wait for your turn. This applies to everything from going down an aisle to picking out produce to ordering at the butcher’s counter to putting your items on the conveyor belt.
  • Don’t go if you’re in a hurry. Ok, so if you’re buying a couple of things you can probably get in and out without a fuss. But if you’re trying to shop for your entire list in a rush, you’re going to ignore the first rule of waiting your turn, and instead of just being an asshole you might put someone’s life at risk.
  • Avoid touching your personal items and items in the store with the same hand. Your phone is disgusting and employees are working diligently to ensure cleanliness in stores when they stock the shelves. If you have to use your phone, try keeping it exclusively to one hand and using the other to pick up items.
  • Wear a mask at all times while inside. As previously mentioned, pushing your mask below your nose or mouth doesn’t count as wearing a mask at all, so just put it on and keep it on for the duration of your visit.

Liquor Stores and Dispensaries

  • Consider buying in bulk. Instead of taking a trip to the liquor store or dispensary every day or week, consider stocking up in order to decrease the number of your visits.
  • Don’t smoke or drink in the parking lot. This may sound obvious (and is already mandated by law), but it’s worth noting anyway since other customers may be waiting outside.
  • Be prepared to wait in line outside. Especially if the store is small in size, it may need to limit the number of customers allowed in at any given time, which means you may be asked to stand outside and wait for your turn. Be patient and remember that everyone has to stand in the same line you’re standing in too.

Restaurants and Take-Out

READ: Colorado Restaurants Can Re-Open For Dine-In Starting Wednesday
  • Keep ordering from your favorite restaurant. Already, Denver has lost several long-standing restaurants to the economic woes of COVID-19. Don’t let the ones you usually visit join that list.
  • Tip. Even if you are ordering to go or curbside pick-up. And especially if you order delivery.
  • Be patient. When restaurants re-open to dine-in customers, they will do so under strict regulations and guidelines. Your cooperation will only help.
  • Don’t complain about the new rules. If you don’t want to wear a mask when going to the bathroom, sit six feet from other tables, wait in your car rather than in the restaurant, or be polite to the staff — don’t go. Order take out or delivery and eat at home with your own rules.