Distance Still Matters Even Outside

·3 min read

At the two week mark from New Year’s with provincial daily positive case counts climbing back up into the three hundreds, it still appears as though individuals in rural areas think that they are not only not in danger of catching the virus, but also not in danger of facing any kind of repercussion for not following health orders. A resident of St. Benedict shared this image of a group of snowmobilers stopping for a break from their sleds and having a friendly visit while doing so. The snowmobiling is not the problem in this photo, but rather the fact that these riders are not maintaining a safe physical distance nor wearing masks so they could safely stand closer together. Snowmobiling is a great way to get out and enjoy a mild winter such as we are having, but COVID-19 doesn’t care whether you are engaging in a great winter pastime or not. It will just as happily transfer from one person to another indoors as well as out. The vulnerable in each of our communities are only as safe as the rest of the community keeps them. As Wakaw has discovered this virus can go from zero to a hundred in the seeming blink of an eye.

Since the outbreak was declared at the Lakeview Pioneer Lodge, tales of hockey games held on the ice of Wakaw Lake, involving individuals from households the opposite side of the lake have also started to surface and the more you talk with people the more activities start to be revealed. It is not that rural people are less aware of the virus, but it is a fact that until people start to see that their community is just as vulnerable as another that the need for caution becomes a bit more relevant. Not one person I am certain felt that Wakaw’s Pioneer Lodge would experience a 100% infection rate amongst its residents, or that the perceived and planned for ‘worst case scenario’ is not even dim reflection of what has actually occurred. In the Public Health Order issued by Dr Shahab on December 14, 2020 it reads “Sports or activities where one or more individuals compete against one or more other individuals (“team sports”, such as hockey, football, soccer, and basketball) are not permitted.” The grey area is that the wording does not specify whether this applies to indoor and outdoor. However, there is no ambiguity in the section pertaining to the size of outdoor gatherings. “Public and private outdoor gatherings are permitted up to 10 persons. Persons in attendance must ensure that physical distancing of at least 2 metres between households is maintained.” On December 27, 2020, Dr Anne Huang, a former deputy medical health officer shared her interpretations and some guidance on how to stay safe doing Saskatchewan’s favourite outdoor winter sports with CBC. While an outdoor pick up game of hockey is relatively low risk she said, individuals need to keep somethings in mind. While playing, people are breathing heavier and so if they are infectious, they could be spreading the virus. To be safe avoid heavy contact games and instead keep numbers of players small and keep a distance from others even while playing. That being said, if the game involves less than ten people and members from different households keep two metres apart, the game should meet all the requirements of the public health orders.

Hopefully, all who were involved are all healthy and have not become a part of the problem and will think more carefully of how their actions may impact those around them. Rather than looking for ways to circumvent the Public Health Orders put in place by the Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, perhaps if people looked for ways to enhance those orders and reduce community transmission the province would more quickly gain the upper hand on the virus and begin to enjoy the lifting of restrictions rather than further tightening.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder