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Opening Up: Pandemic Fear and Fatigue

store clerk holding open sign

Are you tired of all the ongoing pandemic restrictions? Or are you scared to lift the restrictions and face the unknown? Maybe, like most of us, you’re stuck somewhere between both pandemic fatigue and virus fear. It’s totally understandable, no matter how you feel about the current state of #pandemiclife.

But fearful or not, this week BC mapped out the long road back to a new normal in a province working hard to plank the coronavirus curve. And it’s a new normal like we’ve never seen before. Suddenly (or not so suddenly for some), we’re being asked to loosen our lock down efforts and to operate our daily lives under new social rules.

But if we move too quickly and ignore the new rules, Dr. Bonnie Henry says, “… we’ll see dramatic increases. That will set us back in a whole number of ways.”

What's not changing?

Physical distancing, avoiding non-essential travel and regular hand washing are the new norms that are here to stay until there’s a vaccine, a collective level of immunity in the community, or safe and effective treatments for COVID-19 infections.

This means the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people remains in place. Nightclubs, bars and casinos will not be reopening anytime soon. And large sporting events and concerts aren’t yet on the horizon. These places of large gathering give the virus a chance to re-emerge.

What’s changing and when?

In time for the May long weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry says we can start increasing our circles of contact, but carefully and with conscious thought! 

There are no hard and fast rules for British Columbians beyond staying safe and thinking through our contact plans. The onus is on each of us to do the right thing for our health and the health of our loved ones, friends and colleagues.

It’s a Four Phase Plan

Here’s a quick snapshot of our reopening plans and the estimated dates. Assuming we keep the curve flat and there are no new outbreaks, here’s what the future looks like:

Phase 1

This is just where we are today. It’s the actual reality that we’re currently living with essential services and necessary personnel working the front lines to keep us safe, healthy and fed. 

We know that those industries designated as essential (including our 16 Pure Pharmacy locations) have already developed safe operation plans in compliance with the public health orders issued by the Provincial Health Officer.

As a result, B.C.’s economy has continued to operate in ways that other provinces haven’t. Still, it’s undeniable that local businesses have suffered. Many businesses closed for other reasons, including reduced demand; while others closed to do their part in helping to flatten the curve, protecting their customers and employees.

Moving forward, to help these businesses and other organizations get back on their feet, we need workplace practices that ensure British Columbians feel safe, whether they are returning to work or going out as a customer. This will be an ongoing discussion between government, employers and employees to find that safe sweet spot for everyone.

Phase 2

This is mid-May onwards. Now we’ll begin to see a slow return to the new normal. Under enhanced safety and workplace protocols, BC will see the restoration of health services, including rescheduling elective surgeries.

Medical services will begin to return, including dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, and chiropractors; along with physical therapy, speech therapy, and similar services.

The retail sector will begin to open up too. Some hair salons, barbers, and other personal service establishments will enhance protocols and begin seeing customers again. As well, ensuring sufficient physical distancing, services such as in-person counselling, restaurants, cafes, and pubs, museums, art galleries, and libraries can reopen.

Phase 2 also includes the slow reopening of office-based worksites, recreation and sports, parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces. And maybe the biggest savior for many working parents, child care should start to be available again.

The best part of Phase 2? Increasing our circle of friends and contacts by 2 to 6 new people. That means dinner parties and backyard BBQs are back … but with limited numbers of guests, less contact, and definitely no moist speaking!

Phase 3

This is June to September; and only if enhanced protocols are working and transmission rates remain low or in decline.

  • Hotels and Resorts (June 2020)
  • Parks; broader reopening, including some overnight camping (June 2020)
  • Film industry; beginning with domestic productions (June/July 2020)
  • Select entertainment; movies and symphony, but not large concerts (July 2020)
  • Post-secondary education; with mix of online and in-class (September 2020)
  • K-12 education; with only a partial return this school year (September 2020)

Phase 4

This phase timeline remains TBD - To Be Determined.

The reopening in Phase 4 is conditional on at least one of the following; wide vaccination, “community” immunity, or broadly successful treatments. Given these developments, BC’s final phase of reopening will include activities requiring large gatherings, such as conventions, live audience professional sports, concerts and international tourism.

It’s back to the future

These times are like never before. And we’ll need to continue to be kind and patient with ourselves and with others as we seek release from pandemic fatigue and move forward in a safe controlled manner designed to help us abate our virus fears. Together, we can return to our new normal, hopefully sooner than later.