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Wearing masks in public could mean cutting transmission rates by up to 95 per cent.

Five decisions you can make in the age of COVID-19

in Opinion by
Wearing masks in public could mean cutting transmission rates by up to 95 per cent.

Many Kawartha Lakes residents are struggling with what to do and how to behave regarding the COVID-19 pandemic now that the curve appears to be flattening.

Everywhere people turn they seem to be getting mixed messages from government and the media regarding behaviour that will keep people safe but also help their neighbour’s businesses survive to open another day.

While I am not a doctor, nor have I portrayed one on television, here are five decisions that you can make on a daily basis that benefit both you and society as a whole, and there is little serious academic argument on these bits of COVID-19 protocol.

Wear a mask when out in public – All the data currently available worldwide indicates that if everyone wore a mask when in public we could cut future transmission rates by as much as 95 per cent.

Nations who have been successful in stopping the spread of the disease early, and not just flattening the curve but crushing the curve like South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and Singapore, have gone “all in” on masks as a simple and effective way to protect millions.

I realize masks are hot, uncomfortable, unattractive and prone to create strange tan lines, but everyone from the government of Austria to the CDC to the World Health Organization stresses their efficacy.

I fear many people have given up on masks for reasons that are beyond me. Two local anecdotal surveys this week sent chills up my spine. I spent 45 minutes waiting in line at the local liquor store with more than 40 other people. I was one of four people wearing a mask, and no one under 50 was masked. Another day I had to go to the hardware store to get some repair parts for my hose. I spent 20-plus minutes in line and was one of three wearing a mask in a lineup of 21 people.

My wife has noticed the same behaviour in the grocery store where in the last month the number of mask wearers has declined precipitously.

Mask-shaming is becoming a thing both here and in the United States. Apparently in the U.S. the choice to wear or not wear a mask has become a talisman of your political loyalties, and shaming of those who do wear a mask by those who don’t are on the rise.

I was mask shamed at a local trailer parts supplier last week when a fellow customer blurted out that, “People like you were responsible for this hoax. You are weak. You have given into the fear.”

Wash your hands – Except amongst the most extreme of the pandemic deniers there is almost universal support for fastidious hand washing. While many of us are trying, there are times we are falling down on our responsibilities.

Do you wash your hands after putting the groceries away? Do you wash your hands after coming back from the mailbox? Do you wash your hands after bringing in the garbage cans and recycling boxes? I know pre-pandemic I did not and it has taken the occasional reminder from my spouse to correct this behaviour.

Do you wash your hands long enough? Health experts suggest 20 seconds. Except when coming in from doing yard work pre-pandemic I don’t think I put that kind of time into hand washing. Next time you are at the sink count it out in your head…one one thousand…two one thousand and so on. You will be shocked how long under the tap 20 seconds actually is.

Practice social distancing – Everywhere you see the signs stressing the effectiveness of social distancing. We have become the generation that is at least attempting to follow the arrows, and stand on the dots when they are provided in a place of business.

We need to avoid enclosed places with multiple people present as they are the perfect breeding ground for the COVID virus. When I see movie theatres and shopping malls re-opening to regular levels of occupancy in some provinces, it makes me cringe. A family acquaintance works in a call centre in Peterborough and despite some precautions taken by the management, the facility seems like a candidate for a super-spreader incident looking for a place to happen.

We need to continue to be aware that space is our friend, and be civil and understanding in places like store and supermarket aisles about how important personal space is linked to our future survival.

When you shop shop local – Even at the height of the pandemic in early May the court I live on featured a steady stream of delivery vehicles in all sizes, shapes and colours. I might be wrong but apart from one of the local grocery stores delivering to the people across the street, most of those vehicles and their orders are contributing to get Jeff Bezos closer to being the world’s first trillionaire.

Local businesses I have spoken to in my capacity as a reporter are hurting. Some report their sales down by as much as 70 per cent. Staff has been trimmed to absolute minimums and hours have been limited to focus on a number of days a week where being in business doesn’t cost them money.

For some in Lindsay the combination of downtown infrastructure construction and COVID-19 have created a perfect storm that no planning could have predicted. Hands up any of you who actually thought that Canada would be crippled by a pandemic in 2020? Thought so…

These people are our neighbours. They employ our children. They support local charities. They sponsor local sport teams.  They may be a little more expensive and a day or two slower than the Amazon Goliath, but once they are gone they are gone and Kawartha Lakes will be far poorer for it.

Father’s Day is coming next Sunday. With masks on and proper social distancing practiced let’s get out there and spend some money at our friends’ and neighbours’ businesses. Wash your hands when you get home. You will never regret doing it.

Last…be kind – I was in a local automotive repair business last Friday to get my snow tires changed and witnessed a loud and ugly altercation between a customer and a well-meaning service person. It appeared to me that man had ordered a part for his vehicle, but had arrived at the store before the part arrived on the afternoon truck from their warehouse in Toronto. The customer erupted like a roman candle spewing profanities and stormed out of the store threatening recriminations upon one and all.

The employees in this business have been declared essential since day one of the pandemic. They have shown up at work every day while others have been allowed to stay at home, and have taken a risk to their personal health just by coming to work.

We wouldn’t dream of venting our rage on a doctor, nurse or paramedic in the middle of this public health crisis, but postal carriers, automotive repair people and supermarket employees seem ripe for abuse. (My oldest son works in a grocery store and his stories could make you sick to your stomach in terms of what they have had to endure since mid-March, often for little better than minimum wage.)

Kindness will cost you nothing, and I guarantee your gesture will be much appreciated by those working during these stressful times.

In these confusing times my hope is these five simple steps to pandemic civility might improve not only your life but others.

In these troubled times that is an effort worth making.

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

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