By Pauline Kerr
Mid-September saw a jump in the number of COVID-19 cases, just as school resumed. Panic.
However, those of us with the mental faculties to sit back and think about the situation, using information from such sources as the local health unit’s website (instead of hiding in the basement with a year’s supply of aquarium cleaner and a list of conspiracy theory websites) figured out what was happening.
We were seeing the result of activities during the last long weekend of summer – the final chance to sit around the campfire incinerating marshmallows with the folks from the cottage, an opportunity to gather at a favourite bar for a few cool ones with friends before heading off to university, an opportunity to get together with neighbours who have been away for the past couple of months – a desperate attempt to pack the dregs of summer into a few somewhat rainy days.
Because of COVID-19, many of us felt we really did not have a summer. The shift into stage three of the recovery came late, with little time to enjoy the return to something that felt sort of normal. We were just starting to enjoy the season when we were rushing around doing back-to-school shopping.
And now everyone is scared about what will happen with the children back at school. There have been too few answers from the authorities for our peace of mind.
While some of us grimly stock up on toilet paper in preparation for the second wave about to come crashing down on our newly rediscovered freedom, others have adopted a “wait and see” attitude, half expecting another lockdown and wondering what to do with the kids. And there are some – they know who they are – who are getting together with friends and enjoying being able to pop into bars and parties, throwing caution to the winds. COVID-19? What COVID-19?
The virus has not gone away. Ontario has scaled back indoor gatherings to 10 (outdoor 25) and there is talk about cancelling Halloween. Logic would indicate trick-or-treating presents a fairly low risk to both the tricksters and the treaters – kids outside, wearing masks, and collecting packaged goodies handed out by a masked person wearing medical gloves or with a set of tongs so there is no physical contact. Adult Halloween parties are another matter when it comes to safety. But surely adults can forgo a bit of their fun.
We need to realize that a lot of what happens with the feared second wave depends on us. Information on outbreaks in the GTA, Ottawa and other places in recent days indicates a certain pattern. A number of cases of COVID-19 were contracted at a Toronto strip club, for the second time in a month. In London, several Western students have COVID-19. While they had not started classes, it seems they had been visiting bars and restaurants, a couple of them sharing a drink and an E-cigarette. Other outbreaks have been traced to parties – not necessarily the “police cars in the driveway” kind, but more modest, neighbourhood gatherings.
The same things that brought the initial wave of COVID-19 under control still work – maintaining distance between ourselves and others, frequent and consistent hand-washing, wearing masks correctly and avoiding crowds.
The same things that were high-risk from the start of the pandemic still are – public gatherings large and small, close contact with other people through hugs and handshakes, and activities like sharing food and E-cigarettes. Alcohol is an added risk factor that reduces one’s inclination to be careful.
The bottom line is, if we forgo activities we know present a danger, including shoulder-to-shoulder house parties with no masks and too much beer, we are a lot less likely to bring home an illness that could have a devastating impact on our families. Our kids will stand a reasonable chance of staying in school for the rest of the term, barring snow days, and they will be able to enjoy trick-or-treating at Halloween. Our community will remain open for business without having to endure another lockdown.
We can do this!