Some people may be over COVID-19, but COVID-19 isn’t over for any of us.
That’s the message of caution from Dr. David Torr, a medical health officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and previous co-commander of the SHA’s Public Health Incident Command Centre.
“We need to remind folks that COVID-19 is very much here. The activity level may vary across different parts of the province, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It will be here for some time.”
Given our new circumstances, we need to determine “what we can do to be as normal as possible without endangering ourselves or others,” he said.
“At a personal level, you should be more meticulous in habits like frequent and thorough handwashing, physical distancing, avoiding touching your face or surfaces, remembering who your social contacts are over the past two weeks, getting tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms and protecting others, especially the vulnerable.
“At a societal level,” he continued, “this means you’re not shaking hands or hugging people as we used to. You’re washing your hands before you enter a store and, while in the store, for example, when you’re shopping or in line up to pay, you’re staying a six-foot distance from others."
Proper masking (covering from the top nose to under the chin) is an important practice for the general public if a person can’t maintain a six-foot distance from others, he said. “If you and the person next to you are both wearing masks, you’ll minimize transmission. But you don’t have to wear a mask in the car by yourself or if you’re in an open field and no one is within two metres of you.”
Another good practice is to have hand sanitizer with you, especially when you’re out and about and can’t wash your hands, he said.
“COVID-19 doesn’t ask much,” said Dr. Torr. “It just asks that you get close to someone else so it can keep moving. We’re asking that you minimize the opportunity for it to spread.”
He cautioned that although we are reducing physical contact with others throughout this time, we need to be careful not to isolate ourselves.
“There are concerns about COVID-19 making us less social. This will have mental health impacts in the future. With those mental health impacts comes chronic disease.
“Human beings live in a society. We still need to interact with each other, but safely,” he added. “We also need to enjoy the outdoors. Sunlight, fresh air and the mental relief of being out in the open are useful for our physical, mental and social health. Regardless of where we are, we need to ensure we don’t allow the transmission of COVID-19.”
While residents can now extend their social bubbles to include those outside of their own households, Dr. Torr asks that people add others to their social circle in a gradual, controlled way, always maintaining good infection control measures.
“The amount COVID-19 spreads very much depends on how much we let our guard down. What happens tomorrow depends on what we do today.”
He noted that the presence of COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of good, personal infection control measures. “Even though we have other infections such as influenza that have been going on for years, we have let our guards down many times. COVID-19 is reminding us to be more meticulous about our hygiene: staying home when ill, washing your hands frequently, especially after touching surfaces and maintaining some degree of distance from others, especially in public places. It doesn’t mean we should lock ourselves indoors, but we should take more care.”
Testing is also important, he added, especially if you suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
“We should remember that COVID-19 has no boundaries; it affects us all. As a province, we have a responsibility to support each other through these challenging times, to stay positive, and to continue working together in the spirit of kindness and generosity that defines this province.”
Dr. Torr said we need to think of the new “normal” as a balancing act where we adopt practices that minimize the spread of infection while maintaining social, cultural and economic activities. “These are the things that make life what it is.”