Everyone and every mailing list I’m on seems to have a COVID statement and a “What We’re Doing” response. So I figured I might as well do one! In this time of self-isolation and social distancing, many people are turning to the outdoors as a safe option.
To say we’re in unprecedented times is pretty cliche but it’s true. We’re all learning how to adjust our daily habits, work, and play. A lot of people are pointing out that outdoor activity is actually one thing that we can (generally) take part of. We can breakup the monotony of being confined home, even get out with a friend, and enjoy all the benefits the outdoors has to offer. In fact, getting out is probably one of the best things you can do for your mental health at the moment. But…
Yes, there’s a but. Our healthcare system is already overwhelmed and things haven’t really got that bad for us in Canada. When going out to play, consider how your activity may put a greater burden on the system. What does it mean you injure yourself and have to go to the ER, placing yourself in very close proximity to others and increasing that risk to others. What happens if that injury (or perhaps you’re lost) means a call to Search and Rescue? Triggering a search means placing dozens of volunteers in close quarters. Your visit to the hospital pulls resources away from the healthcare system that is desperately trying to maintain public safety.
Social distancing means we need to keep space between ourselves and others. Social distancing is not actually about you and your survival – it’s about preventing the spread to those who are at a greater risk of death from it, people like me who are immuno-compromised (lupus). Studies are still emerging but the latest numbers are showing that nearly 20% of infected people are asymptomatic, that is, they have no symptoms.
You could be a carrier and not know it. You could be unwittingly passing it on to your family; your neighbours; and your co-workers. I guarantee you that at least one of these people in your life falls into the ‘vulnerable’ population group. Millions of Canadians do not have paid sick leave and many of our small businesses are closing their doors. Women are disproportionately being affected by this whether due to increased care responsibilities (elder or child), more likely to be working in low-paying jobs without paid sick leave or at a business that will have to shut its doors, our healthcare system remains quite gendered, and anyone in a violent relationship is at an exacerbated risk of intimate partner violence.
This is serious; this is real and it’s time to adjust your daily life but don’t panic. You’re still allowed to smile, laugh, and have conversations. Absolutely get out for walk, hike, ski, run…whatever your outdoor fun looks like! However, this is also the time to scale back on the intensity and eschew that weekly group ride/run/walk. It’s also a time for you check in with community groups and see how you can help*. Deliver groceries. Pick up prescriptions. Donate to the food bank. Take the dog for a walk. Call a friend who may be suffering from depression.
Lastly, be patient. Thank the workers who are out there trying to ensure we all stay alive: in addition to our healthcare workers don’t forget about our grocery clerks, drivers & delivery people, sanitation workers, and public servants working on claims and assistance.
*For those healthy enough to do so.