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Column: Entering a new chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic

Opening Our Eyes by Nan Dickie
Physical distancing requirements remain in place for public spaces including city parks. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

We are at a very nervous and critical time in this COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, each week – indeed each day – since mid-March, we have been faced with uncertainty and new challenges.

We are now, in September, going to be faced with even more uncertainty and several new challenges.

For the past two summer months we’ve enjoyed a bit of a break. We were encouraged by Dr. Bonnie Henry to be outdoors as much as possible. B.C. citizens had done well at flattening the curve by the end of June. It was apparent that many of us took advantage of those opportunities – campsites were full, the highways were crowded with recreational vehicles, boaters enjoyed the lakes, hikers were in the hills, and cyclists were on the roads and trails.

It almost felt normal – or at least a new normal.

At the beginning of July, public health authorities invited us to open our social bubbles a bit, up to 60 per cent of normal. Most people abided by this regulation, but a minority took too much liberty with this widening. Online news showed us gatherings of huge groups of people on beaches, or in small enclosed spaces, with few practising physical distancing or wearing masks. Suddenly the number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. jumped markedly, and not unsurprisingly.

We were not 100 per cent “all in,” as Health Minister Adrian Dix has implored us to be for the past six months.

Why have some people chosen to blatantly break the very clear and wise rules stated over and over by public health officials, on signs in public spaces, in the news and at countless businesses that have re-opened and would like to remain open?

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Many people are experiencing COVID-fatigue, quite understandably. We may have hoped the pandemic would abate by summer, or at least by the end of the summer. However, this is certainly not the case. In fact, we are in for at least a few more months of discomfort, inconvenience and, for many people, increased hardship.

In addition to that fatigue, some people have become frustrated and annoyed that they are continue to be restricted in some of their activities. Some are bored and impatient. Others are still choosing to deny there truly is a pandemic, or that they themselves won’t get the virus, and “It wouldn’t be so bad if I did; it’s just a bad cold.”

This is willful ignorance, complete antipathy for the health of others, and the best way to ensure this pandemic thrives and takes lives much longer than need be.

We are entering a new phase of this pandemic with schools reopening, cooler weather coming and the respiratory season on the horizon. We need now to step back from our increased social interactions to move forward. We need to rethink indoor gatherings. We need to double our efforts, as Dr. Henry continues to tell us, to be calm, to be kind and to be safe.

This doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

Nan Dickie is an author, speaker and former facilitator of a depression support group in Salmon Arm.

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