ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) — While health officials are encouraging the public to spend time outdoors in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical practitioners are asking that the public considers the risk of exposure to the virus and effectively practicing social distancing.
Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue tell ABC4 News crews are facing another challenge: the more time people spend outside, the more calls for rescues they have to respond to. Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin said in the past week, rescuers have already responded to five calls for rescues in Washington County.
“We’ve had people break their ankles in the last week, we’ve had people wreck on their mountain bikes. A lot of people on these trails, very close together, parking lots were full,” Sgt. Cashin said. “Sometimes we get two or three a day, sometimes they’re right on top of each other, and it wears down on the rescuers.”
Sgt. Cashin said his teams have been averaging three calls a week and are up to 33 calls so far this year. The liaison said he hasn’t seen residents being as cautious with social distancing as they need to be and recommends recreating either alone or in small gatherings, maintaining that six feet of distance, which is a radius around your body.
“Maybe you step off the trail for a little ways and let people pass you and then go back on the trail,” Sgt. Cashin added.
He added, “We don’t do any indoor training anymore and we have to keep our social distance. We told our volunteers that if you don’t feel comfortable, it won’t be counted against you for not showing up to a training or a rescue.”
Zion National Park officials announced Monday that effective immediately, Angels Landing Trail from Scout Lookout to the end of the trail will temporarily close. Park rangers said that with the chain section of the Angels Landing Trail, hikers are often needing to go around one another and in close contact on the trail.
Washington County Search and Rescue crews said they anticipate calls continuing to increase —and potentially burdening his volunteers — as schools will remain on a soft lock-down through May 1 and more people venture outside.
Sgt. Cashin wants residents to take extra precautions when out hiking or biking. When crews receive a cluster of calls, they said rescues may take a little longer, so an emergency kit with warm clothes, food, water, and a flashlight may keep residents comfortable while crews hike out to rescue people.
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