Jack Knox: Don’t give in to temptation, stay home, stay the course

It would be dumb, at this point, to jump out of the lifeboat and start swimming back to the Titanic.

That is, we in B.C. have done an admirable job of following instructions, hunkering in our bunkers and avoiding each other like, well, the plague.

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So it would be a shame if, having been rewarded with hints that our efforts are working, we blew it all by giving into temptation and slacking off — dinner with friends, say, or a quick trip away — during what promises to be a seductively sunny Easter break.

Hence Health Minister Adrian Dix’s admonition to “bend the curve, not the rules this weekend.”

Hence a Salt Spring business group’s launch of a Stay Home Stay Safe campaign aimed at discouraging outsiders from visiting what is normally a tourism-dependent island.

Hence B.C. Ferries’ warning that “even though the Easter long weekend is approaching, this is not a time for leisure travel.”

Hence Wednesday’s decision to shut down all provincial parks until further notice.

Hence Royal Roads University’s new move to pare public access. It’s just the latest addition to a long list of popular destinations to do so in the name of social- distancing.

There is reason to worry. Remember three weekends ago when everyone in Victoria, drawn by the first rays of spring, tried to crowd into the great outdoors at the same time?

The parking lots at south Island parks were crammed like Costco’s. We all glared at one another, as though it was the other guy who didn’t belong. (Like the bumper sticker says: “You are not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.”)

The mob scenes prompted authorities to rush to close playgrounds, soccer fields, the road through Esquimalt Lagoon — anywhere people gather to enjoy themselves.

The prospects of similar scenes this weekend, with well-intentioned COVID carriers hopping in the car, enjoying a quick getaway and spreading germs like Easter eggs, prompted a flurry of activity.

On Wednesday, B.C. Parks, which had already closed its campgrounds, announced it’s giving up on the idea of keeping its trails and other areas open. It did so in part to discourage travel by day-trippers and tourists, and in part because of the difficulty in keeping people apart.

“We tried to provide safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks,” Environment Minister George Heyman said, “but it has proven too challenging to maintain safe distance between visitors.”

Similarly, Royal Roads University cited physical distancing in announcing new measures that are in keeping with those taken at other national historic sites: No visitor vehicle access or visitor parking anywhere on campus, and no public access to Hatley Castle or its formal gardens. “Walking and cycling on the grounds are permitted — but not encouraged — in the interest of physical distancing.”

The ambiguity of that last bit raises an interesting question: Are we supposed to be getting outdoor exercise or not? And if all the popular paths, parks and trails are closed, where are people supposed to walk, run or cycle without getting too close to others doing the same thing?

Dr. Bonnie Henry has given her blessing to outdoor exercise, and has made it clear that she’s more worried about the transmission of COVID-19 indoors than she is about the prospect of someone being infected by a passing runner or rider outside, where, she has said, viruses don’t spread as easily. At the same time, she has been consistent in telling us to stay at least two metres away from one another.

And no, Dr. Bonnie’s blessing doesn’t mean you and your friends and family members should arrange to all meet up for a tromp through some distant woods this long weekend.

And it certainly doesn’t mean you should all get together for a celebratory dinner, or swan off to a family cabin, or — even though this is such a meaningful time on so many religious calendars — gather with others of the congregation. They’re all lovely things to do, but not when Aunt Ethel shows up with COVID-19 as her plus-one.

“We need to stay home this weekend,” Henry said Wednesday. “This is not the time to take unnecessary travel.”

In the thick of the fight, on the right path, it would make no sense to let our guards down now.

“It is no time for us to let up at all.”

jknox@timescolonist.com

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