With the long weekend approaching, Yukoners across the territory are feeling drawn to the outdoors.
After all, nobody lives here because they like being inside alone.
What’s the harm, for example, in getting together with a group of friends? The friends could meet somewhere outdoors, stay six feet apart, and keep the gathering to less than 10 people, right? That’s within the rules, isn’t it?
Whether that plan fits within the measures laid out by Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, or not, the short answer is don’t do it.
It’s natural during a global pandemic to try to search for a sense of normalcy. A compromise, if you will, can’t be that bad — can it?
Well, it can. If you’re trying to figure out if you can do something, assume you can’t.
This is not the time to be searching for loopholes.
It’s understandable. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially at a time when they already feel like they’re losing control.
But know this — we’re all going stir crazy. Temperatures around Whitehorse have been downright hospitable the last few days and we all want to be outside.
The problem, though, is everyone — every single strong, free-willed, independent Yukoner — is thinking the same thing.
Earlier this week, a reader submitted a handful of photos to the News they took at Fish Lake last weekend.
And what, you ask, was in those photos? Dozens of trucks and cars parked side by side, row after row.
I’ve got news for you — if you can’t open your vehicle door without taking some paint off your neighbour’s truck, you’re not physical distancing (that’s the re-brand, by the way, of social distancing.)
As uncomfortable as it is, now is the time for everyone to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Luckily, doing one’s part in this situation is incredibly simple. Just a handful of steps to take and you’re doing your part to guide the Yukon, and Canada, back to business as usual.
First of all, wash your hands.
Wash your hands thoroughly and be aware of what you touch, remembering that washing your hands loses its punch when you immediately rub your nose. Consciously thinking about not touching your face can go a long way to not having to wash your hands six times in an hour because you had an itch that wouldn’t go away.
Second of all, stay home.
This was included up top, but it bears repeating: don’t be the guy trying to figure out how to have your dream weekend while putting others at risk. Those back country trips could lead to back country rescues, tying up resources and potentially leading to unplanned interactions with Yukon communities, which of course is far less than an ideal outcome.
“But I never have issues in the back country,” you say. “What could go wrong?”
The simple truth is the list of people who got into trouble in the back country and planned on it is short. Very short.
For those wanting to do something a bit more proactive in the fight against COVID-19, the federal government has come out in favour of homemade masks — not because they will prevent you from catching the virus, but because they will help prevent the spread.
You may be asymptomatic or otherwise unaware you’re a carrier, and it’s worth noting the serotonin boost one gets from knowing they’re doing something for the benefit of the community rather than the individual.
Ultimately, it’s up to each and every individual in the Yukon to make the right decisions if things are to return to normal any time soon.
Far from being decided in some great symbolic moment, the fight against COVID-19 is the thousand decisions we make every day. Those decisions — whether to walk your dog on a trail or down the street, to stay in town or head into the bush, to have the entire family over or limit the party to the household — are what will make an impact.
Anyone who’s ever dieted or tried to quit smoking knows that incremental progress can be difficult or even impossible to measure in real time. With testing results lagging behind the present and the feeling of the Yukon suddenly being the crossroads of North America, it’s easy to get discouraged.
But things are working. As Hanley pointed out on Monday, there have been no hospitalizations required for COVID-19 in the Yukon, all seven cases were travel-related and four of those cases are now classed as recovered, as of April 7.
We are winning, but we have not won.
There will be more cases here — most of what we need for day-to-day living comes from Outside, so there will always be the risk of another case. We’re inherently tied to our neighbours, so as long as there are outbreaks in the rest of Canada, we too will need to be on alert.
What matters though is that what we’re doing here in the Yukon appears to be working. It’s not going to be perfect — no one is a public health robot — but each good decision is another tiny step towards regaining our lifestyle and our sense of self.
We will get through this together. We survive and thrive at -40 C for weeks at a time — are we really going to let something as simple as sitting down trip us up?
So what can we do about those that still want to take those risks?
Have those unpleasant conversations.
Friend planning something dumb? Call them out.
People not respecting your six-foot bubble? Ask them to back up.
And, please, stay home.
All these precautions are the new norm and the sooner we all start pulling in the same direction, the sooner things get back to normal.
It’s not about fear, but rather about respecting the guidance and instruction of public health officials.
Don’t forget, these precautions are enforceable under penalty of law now — bad news for all those who spent the last month saying “Yeah, or what?”
With some discipline, this long weekend will be an anomaly rather than the new normal.