Heading Outdoors for a Socially Distant Getaway? Try These Apps

Listen to narrated audio tours — thoughtful stories of history, wildlife, geology, people and points of interest — as you drive through national parks and other stirring landscapes (like Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and southern Utah) with the Just Ahead: Audio Travel Guides app, which uses your smartphone’s GPS. No internet connection is required, and you can play the stories manually as well. The guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for instance, takes passengers from the park’s lowlands to its peaks, past mountain vistas, wildflowers and waterfalls, offering pointers about hiking various trails, less-visited areas and the most likely places to spot wildlife. There are more than a dozen guides so far (to parks such as Badlands, Capitol Reef, Death Valley, Yosemite and Zion), with more on the way. Cost: You can listen to free samples before purchasing a guide (up to $19.99 each); a one-year pass to access all guides is $29.99.

There are official National Park Service apps for a number of parks, each with their own features and notices, like alerts about Covid-19-phased reopenings. The NPS Yellowstone National Park app, for instance, has self-guided audio walking tours, things to do, cultural history, a detailed park map and updated geyser predictions. The best way to find the various apps is to search your app store by park name or “National Park Service.” Cost: Free. Tip: For up-to-the-minute information about trail closures and parking availability, it’s generally a good idea to follow a particular park’s Twitter updates.

With more than 100,000 trails for hiking, running and biking, AllTrails makes it a breeze for travelers around the world to discover nearby trails and sort them by features such as length, difficulty, elevation, attractions (waterfalls, caves, wildlife), dog-friendliness and trail traffic. There are photos and reviews from fellow app users (“Very challenging on the knees, but worth the effort”), and helpful information like weather, UV indexes, and sunrise and sunset times. You can track where you go, record your route on a map, and share the details with friends and family. Cost: Free. (Note: Beachgoers who regularly walk, run and swim might like the interactive and eye-pleasing Tide alert (NOAA)-USA app, which has tide charts, sunrise and sunset times, and a moon phase calendar. Cost: Free.)

National parks lovers may want to try the National Park Trail Guide app, a user-friendly collection of thousands of trails through some of the nation’s most breathtaking places — Acadia, Badlands, Mount Rainier, Zion — with no cell signal required. Cost: Free.

GPS Tracks is a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts who want to track their routes, navigate to way points, share their location, and see and save maps of precisely where they’ve been. Cost: $3.99; more features through in-app subscriptions, from $19.99.

  • Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mobile app has broad information about Covid-19, as well as a link to a “Travel in the U.S.” page that addresses the risks of traveling now (be it the risks to different people, or the different risks of various types of transportation); provides questions to ask yourself if you’re considering traveling; touches on state and local travel restrictions; offers guidance for protecting yourself and others, as well as tips for cleaning and disinfecting your lodgings; and answers frequently asked questions about the safety of camping, and of traveling to visit family and friends. Cost: Free.

Citymapper has updated times, maps and advisories, including those about Covid-19, for transportation in major cities. For instance, in New York, a recent alert pointed out that face masks are required, that the state was advising people to use public transportation only when essential and that there were reduced services (details about subway lines, trains, buses and ferries are included). Cost: Free.

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