It seems like such a long time ago.
In March 2020 as COVID-19 activity was beginning to escalate in parts of Canada, governments put a wide variety of public health measures to prevent the spread of the outbreak. Only essential workers went to their jobs. We learned to work from home. Doctors’ clinics, schools and day cares, restaurants, gyms and hair salons closed. We adapted to enforced physical distancing and limitations on travel. The measures used varied somewhat across Canada owing to differences in the timing and intensity of COVID-19 activity and jurisdictional considerations.
Now communities are re-opening and we are wondering what to do. Again, we are faced with making decisions without a playbook.
Prolonged close contact is felt to be the source for most COVID-19 infections, suggesting that physical distancing combined with emphasis on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and environmental cleaning continue to be the most effective mitigation approaches. Outbreaks have been attributed to large family gatherings, religious services, funerals, and choir practice, and have also occurred in occupational settings including health care facilities and meat processing plants. Settings such as remote and isolated and First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities have additional risks and considerations and require tailored approaches based on geography, culture and living circumstances.
As we re-open our communities, our public health authorities are providing guidelines to help you navigate the new normal: avoid contact, confinement and crowds. And make realistic choices.
You need to continue to practice physical distancing to minimize close contact with others in the community, including maintaining a two-metre separation from others when outside of the household (i.e. from non-household members) and avoiding common greetings, such as hugs and handshakes.
You also need to continue to practice other social distancing precautions. That means wearing masks and washing hands well and often.
Generally, our health authorities are recommending we continue to avoid non-essential travel. In particular, people at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should still stay home unless necessary. High risk people are older adults and patients with autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus or other serious underlying medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease, diabetes, cancer).
In addition, you should be staying at home and away from others if symptomatic/feeling ill – e.g. not going to school/work.
As restrictions are lifted, some businesses and other public places will reopen and the size of gatherings that is allowed may be increased in stages. However, individuals should continue to practice physical distancing when they are outside the home and avoid crowded places.
Try to make sure that public spaces you frequent are maintaining mitigation measures: spreading out tables at a restaurant, limiting or spacing out patrons in shops and parks, and conducting frequent cleaning and disinfection.
As the saying goes these days, we are in this – together. All of us – government, health care providers, employers and the general public – must continue to make decisions that are science-based and apply them to settings where the public gathers, like businesses, retail stores and workplaces, child and youth settings, community gathering spaces or settings, outdoor spaces and public transportation.
Every individual ultimately must make a personal decision about the level of risk he or she is comfortable with, weighing their own age and health status, life circumstances and general level of risk aversion or tolerance. We are in this together. And that means young, healthy adults and children should also consider the protection of people around them, including family members, colleagues or friends who are vulnerable because of chronic disease or other life circumstances.
When the restrictions that have been in place are lifted, even gradually, the risk of COVID-19 transmission will increase. It is important to balance that risk against the individual, societal and economic benefits that are anticipated from re-opening. It is also necessary to reduce the risk of transmission in all settings as much as possible.
ACE’s Arthritis At Home is the newest addition to JointHealth™ Education programming and makes it possible for people living with arthritis to watch or listen to video interviews with Canadian experts in clinical rheumatology, arthritis scientists, physio and occupational therapists, psychologists and health economists. To find episodes on what COVID-19 means to people living with arthritis, go to Arthritis at Home.
Where to get the latest COVID-19 information specific to your province or territory.
Public Health Agency of Canada provides a valuable listing of provincial and territorial resources for COVID-19.