With the days of summer gatherings and family BBQs fast approaching, how can we keep each other healthy and safe?
I recently spoke with Dr. Tim Evans (Director & Associate Dean of McGill School of Population & Global Health, and a key member of Health Canada’s external secretariat for the COVID-19 Task Force) and Dr. Marc Robin (physician and Medical Director at Dialogue) about best practices for reintroducing social gatherings into our daily lives during COVID-19.
Here’s a rundown of their top tips for safe deconfinement:
1. Continue to take safety precautions. Outdoor gatherings tend to present a lower risk than indoor events. But in either case, you should continue to follow established health protocols like:
- Frequent hand-washing
- Respecting the 2-meter rule
- Not touching your face
- Not going out if you’re sick
Try to minimize the time spent socializing in settings that are not your home or part of your usual surroundings.
2. Engage in activities deemed safe by your province. Outdoor sports and leisure activities minimize the risk of airborne transmission and make it easier to maintain physical distance. Stick to paired activities like jogging, hiking, cycling, or tennis for now. If you’re not sporty, consider a library or museum visit as they reopen.
3. Expect reintroduction anxiety. It’s normal to feel anxious around increased social interactions. You’ll feel safer, however, if you:
- Stay well-informed
- Talk to and support family, friends, neighbours, and coworkers
- Continue to practice social distancing
Consider wearing a mask in places where the 2-meter rule is difficult to follow - like on public transportation, for example. You can visit Dialogue’s pop-up store to purchase personal protective equipment.
4. Follow common-sense rules for meal sharing. Restaurants and food delivery services are already practicing infection prevention. You can do your part by not sharing utensils or glassware when eating with others, and by respecting social distancing and minimizing the time spent dining with people outside your household.
5. Include social interactions with the elderly. Family gatherings aren’t necessarily a risk to older family members, especially if:
- Everyone involved is healthy
- Proper distancing measures are respected
- Children in attendance haven’t been at school or daycare
Staying connected (with precautions observed) is especially important for the elderly, who are at greater risk of suffering from loneliness.
6. Reinforce good playground hygiene. The key to safe park and playground use lies in respecting the 2-meter rule, engaging in frequent hand-washing, and practicing safe disinfection when you and your children return home - especially if you have at-risk members in your household.
7. Check guidelines for returning to work. Virtually every employer has comprehensive guidelines for reintroducing personnel to a shared workspace. You can also check with Canada’s public health agency or your provincial health authority on what to do as an employee – especially if you have a pre-existing condition, or you’re at higher risk for transmission.
8. Stay vigilant to help prevent a second wave. It’s unclear whether a second wave of infection will happen – or how severe it might be. The best prevention strategy is to stay informed and continue to follow good public health behaviour.
If you’d like to learn more about expanding your social bubble as we move out of confinement, watch our full video interview with Dr. Evans and Dr. Robin.