I’ve always believed that the outdoors lifestyle is an insurance policy in times of emergency.

Hop into a fishing boat, hike far from the crowds, hunt in remote areas—that’s always been my plan for dealing with bad times.

Government can’t shut down the outdoors, I thought.

But in the midst of the coronavirus, a highly contagious disease that has taken thousands of lives in nations such as China and Italy, the unthinkable is now happening.

I was shocked when I heard that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources closed all state parks and state-managed land—including wildlife areas, state fishing lakes, campgrounds and hiking areas–in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Desperate times require desperate measures, I guess. I certainly won’t fault anyone for using proactive means to get ahead of a potential disaster.

Still, my mind keeps going back to this—the outdoors is the one place where many people can go to keep social distancing; to escape the crowds that the coronavirus feeds on. Take that away, and the Great Outdoors becomes the Great Indoors.

Other states have announced similar measures:

  • Fishing tournaments and other special events have been suspended in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District, which includes Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes.
  • State parks are completely closed in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Hawaii, and others in many other states have closed campgrounds.
  • In Utah, camping in the entire area around Moab has been closed. That includes public and private campgrounds.

In my part of the world, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced Thursday that all state parks, state fishing lakes and wildlife areas will remain open. All license and permit requirements will remain unchanged, and the spring turkey season and nonresident deer application period will resume as planned.

Missouri state parks and lands and fishing lakes managed by the Department of Conservation remain open. Authorized hunting and fishing seasons will go on as planned.

For now, most U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks at reservoirs are still open. But officials warn that changes may be coming.

Even in Kansas and Missouri, it isn’t business as usual. In both states, special programs and events have been cancelled. And the Corps has closed all of its federal boat ramps, campgrounds and day-use areas at Mark Twain Lake in eastern Missouri.

I expect there to be further restrictions if the situation worsens. For me, this is a jolting reminder of how serious this virus is.

It’s sad, but I fully support these measures. The people who say, “It will never happen to me,” are the ones who will get infected and spread it to others.

My wife and me are both retirement age and we are avoiding contact with the outside world. For the  first time, we are even getting our groceries delivered.

I don’t plan on giving up fishing, hiking or turkey hunting during this outbreak, but I will definitely change my habits. No more large groups, A lot of “alone time.”

I’m not saying we have to panic. Get outdoors whenever and wherever it is allowed. But be careful. Avoid crowds. Practice social distancing. And if you’re sick, stay home.

Someone’s life may depend on it.