Petanque in the time of Covid-19
Some petanque clubs are reopening with Covid-19 guidelines in place. If your club is playing or reopening, here are some thoughts.
- Current research indicates that Covid-19 is spread primarily by close person-to-person contact. A person who appears to be healthy may unwittingly be blasting virus-laden water droplets into the air every time that he/she exhales or speaks. That’s how the virus spreads. The water droplets typically don’t travel more than about 6 feet (2 meters); that’s why social distancing— maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others— is one of our most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus.
- You wear a mask to protect other people from you, not to protect yourself from other people. The purpose of a mask is to contain your exhaled water droplets inside your mask, so that they don’t escape into the surrounding environment where they can infect someone else. Wearing a mask is a moral responsibility, not a matter of self-defense. It is what you do to protect your friends and neighbors, not yourself. That’s why— paradoxically— the younger, healthier, and stronger you are, the more important it is for you to wear a mask. You can appear to be healthy while in fact you have the virus and are unknowingly spreading it to everyone you meet.
- Touching objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of coronavirus transmission. Although you can and should take sensible precautions (hand-washing, etc.), you are unlikely to contract the virus by touching your snail mail or Amazon delivery box, your pet, or items in the grocery store when you go shopping. When you go grocery shopping, the time for maximum caution is not when you are filling your shopping cart; it is when you’re in the checkout line, close to the cashier and other shoppers.
- If you are playing petanque, the time for maximum caution is not when you are picking up the jack which was thrown earlier by another player; it is when you are simply standing around and talking or watching the game. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THIS— The closer you stand to your friends and fellow-players, the more you may unknowingly be putting them in danger.
Petanque players know that the most dangerous conditions are in crowded enclosed spaces. Out in the open air they feel safe— or at least safe enough to play while wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Some groups feel safe enough to require only social distancing, and don’t mandate the use of masks. The FFPJP guidelines for playing during Covid-19 recommend but do not require mask-use.
Feeling safe enough in the open air to go maskless is understandable, but it also means that you are placing all of your eggs in one basket. It means that your only tool for preventing the spread of the virus is social distancing. You should therefore absolutely observe social distancing practices religiously. You must treat everyone you meet— and yourself— as a potential carrier. In light of the seriousness of this issue, if your petanque group is active and playing—
- Try to observe a greater social distance than is normally recommended. Make the minimum social distance 10 feet rather than 6 feet— 3 meters rather than 2 meters.
- Players naturally congregate around the jack while measuring or while boules are being picked up. Be aware of that tendency. Resist that tendency.
- Physically space out your games, so that there is as much space as possible between active terrains.
- Pay attention to the wind. Even a light breeze will disperse exhaled water droplets, but it will also increase the distance that a droplet can travel in the air. Throw the jack across the wind-direction rather than upwind or downwind. Watch where you are standing; try not to stand upwind or downwind from another player. Don’t be the group in the upper diagram; be the group in the lower diagram.