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Outdoor spaces (and gasoline) are important

Staying home for days is bad enough, but Oregonians are grappling with coronavirus-spurred changes that threaten to completely upend the state they thought they knew.

Parks, campgrounds and day-use areas throughout our scenic wonderland are closed, and emergency officials beg residents not to set off on hiking trips no matter how solitary. Then, as if to add something even more surreal, the state suspended the nation’s last ban on self-serve gasoline.

Yes, you’re still in Oregon, but there’s no telling when it will get back to something resembling normal.

Believe us, we feel your pain, and under the circumstances it’s probably for the best, but it would be nice if some accommodation could be made.

Under the governor’s shelter-in-place order, Oregonians are encouraged to exercise outside, as long as the minimum 6-foot social separation is maintained to prevent the spread of the virus. But “outside” doesn’t mean a nearby city, county or state park. They’re all closed.

That pretty much leaves a stroll around your neighborhood. Not the Oregon way.

But the problem is, as soon as businesses and workplaces shuttered in response to the pandemic, Oregonians flocked to the coast and the mountains, horrifying state officials and residents of beach towns. Crowds of people on the beaches and on popular hiking trails was not exactly the outdoor exercise they had in mind.

Some Bureau of Land Management trails and open spaces remain open, but finding them may be a challenge. BLM officials said to check with your local district and field offices.

Still, it would be nice if some close-in parks were available for walking, especially on level ground more welcoming to seniors and those with mobility issues — as long as social distancing is maintained.

As for the remote areas, search-and-rescue officials say the last thing they want is to have to go after hikers or backcountry skiers who run into trouble far from civilization. Not only would searchers run the risk of infection, but injured people who get rescued could tie up a hospital bed urgently needed for sick people.

About the gas pumps: The state’s announcement took many by surprise. Isn’t it less risky to stay in your car and not handle gas nozzles that could be contaminated with the virus?

The Energy Department issued a clarification Sunday evening. The suspension of the ban does not make self-service mandatory. But many gas retailers are experiencing staff shortages because of illness, child care issues and safety concerns. The state’s interest is in making sure fuel is available to essential personnel who need to travel.

Those attendants still on the job can avoid face-to-face contact, sanitize nozzles and assist customers as needed while maintaining social distancing.

Makes sense to us.

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