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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
It was more than two months ago the provinces in Atlantic Canada locked down their borders and asked residents to stay home, practice physical distancing and use regular handwashing in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 in this region.
With the exception of a major outbreak at Northwood, a long-term care facility in Halifax, N.S., this region has been very successful in flattening the curve and we are now entering the difficult period of deciding how to relax some of the restrictions that have been placed on our daily lives. While the governments in this region have wisely chosen to do this in a gradual and planned manner, it seems clear that this pandemic has brought about some significant changes in our society and things may never go back to the way they were before.
The last two weekends have given us a glimpse into what may become the “new normal” if researchers are unsuccessful in creating a vaccine that is effective against this virus. Two weekends ago, Mother's Day was celebrated and many people were unable to even give their mother a hug because of physical distancing guidelines. There was a lot of debate in care facilities about what gifts, cards or flowers could safely be allowed into their facilities to protect their residents. While virtual platforms on computers and other devices did fill some of the need for contact, it can't replace being able to hug and kiss your loved one.
This past weekend was the Victoria Day holiday and the first long weekend that traditionally launches summer and the beginning of camping season. Such activities have been discouraged across much of the region and if residents do choose to go out in the country to their cabins or camping in their trailers, they have to maintain physical distancing from everyone around them. This will be a major challenge as socializing with other campers is a significant element of camping and children will find it even more difficult to limit themselves to their own site and not play with other children around them. In such a relaxed setting, parents may find it harder to supervise their children's activities which could heighten the risk of creating a new COVID-19 cluster.
Perhaps the biggest change we will see in the coming months is the lack of tourists coming to visit our provinces and the subsequent financial blow to our economy. Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we normally see a large influx of tourists about now as people from all over the world come to see the icebergs along our coasts and the return of whales to our waters.
This year, our government is not allowing anyone who is not a resident to physically come to the province in an effort to keep new infections from affecting our people. While most people are accepting of the reason for this decision, we are a naturally friendly group of people and it just doesn't feel right to tell people they aren't welcome to visit. I'm sure the same sentiment is felt across the Atlantic region.
While we may not wish for it to be so, we need to start getting our heads around the reality that, at least for this year, things will not be returning to normal. Physical distancing requirements will be with us at least until we have an effective vaccine developed and widely distributed among the population; and when stores and restaurants eventually re-open, such restrictions will be present.
There will likely be no large gatherings of people this year which means the various music and theatrical festivals our region is known for will not be taking place. Despite these challenges, Atlantic Canadians will adapt to adversity as we always have. I am confident we will find a way to retain the atmosphere which makes this region one of the best places in this great country to live.
Brian Hodder works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached email@example.com.