With several weeks of much lower case numbers and hospitalizations, we are slowly and carefully resuming small parts of our pre-pandemic lives. But let’s not lose sight of how quickly that progress can reverse – as we’ve seen in parts of the United States that opened up too much too fast and residents have resisted simple precautions.
Among the most important things we’ve learned about the virus is the extent to which it is spread by those not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) as well as those who have the virus but never show any symptoms (asymptomatic). The latter appears to be more common among young, healthy people – the same demographic which may be the least cautious about containing the spread.
So, as we’ve loosened some rules, new ones are coming into place. Masks must now be worn on the TTC. And effective this coming Tuesday, July 7, they will be required in all publicly-accessible indoor space within the City of Toronto. This includes locations such as retail stores, elevators, and common areas. With no ability to hire enough officers to enforce this bylaw, we will be relying on public cooperation and the assistance of store owners.
Mandatory mask wearing was recommended by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and approved by City Council earlier this week. Neighbouring municipalities have adopted similar measures but, in the absence of a province-wide order, many smaller, more rural municipalities have not adopted similar measures.
Like many of you, I would have preferred to have seen mask wearing encouraged much sooner, and an earlier requirement to wear them in publicly-accessible indoor space such as grocery stores.
Please note that the primary purpose of wearing a mask is to protect others; if everyone wears a mask, we are all better protected. Also, please be aware that mask wearing is not a substitute for other basic precautions such as staying two metres apart from those not in your immediate family or circle, hand washing and staying home if you’re sick. It is the combination of these measures that will get us through this.
As I was writing this, CNN did a glowing report on how Canadians have responded to the crisis, putting politics aside and listening to science and health experts. We can all be proud of that, together with a willingness to forego some personal liberties for the common good.
By most experts’ estimation, we are still only four months into a health crisis that could easily last another year or more while we wait for a vaccine to be developed, manufactured and distributed. Making these precautions a part of our everyday lives will help us greatly if, as predicted, a second COVID-19 wave hits us this fall.
For instructions on how to make a mask, click here.