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People of Vancouver, stop gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic

Breweries, patios were pumping this past weekend despite coronavirus concerns
Despite concerns over COVID-19 (coronavirus), this past weekend bars, cafes, breweries and patios we
Despite concerns over COVID-19 (coronavirus), this past weekend bars, cafes, breweries and patios were overflowing as if it was the spring of 2010. File photo Dan Toulgoet

If you didn’t realize it before, the coronavirus has made it crystal clear: we are a species that loves to gather.

We can’t seem to help ourselves. Our entire society is built around being in groups. Whether it’s your church congregation, your kid’s birthday party, your favourite café or venue, or your open office plan, we love to be together, even in the age of Netflix.

It’s naturally exciting to us when places are packed and bustling. Even when told not to by our highest medical and political leaders, still, we gather, and the coronavirus is punishing us for this most basic need for human interaction.

We must stop gathering.

As you should well know by now, this is of vital importance in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus in our communities, to our loved ones and to our most vulnerable.

Spring break is here, the blossoms are out and the sun is shining. As we’ve been told, there’s nothing wrong with getting out and enjoying the fresh air.

But keep your distance.

Sounds harsh, but we’ve been asked again and again to practise social distancing — two metres apart from each other. No touching.

And yet, this past weekend, from Port Moody to Commercial Drive, from downtown Vancouver to Whistler, bars, cafes and breweries were bumping. Packed. Overflowing onto patios as if it was the spring of 2010. WTF.

We. Must. Stop. Gathering.

I get that to do so is a death knell for our economy, but we are nothing without our health. To be together, even in small groups, is now an incredibly selfish act towards our health care system, each other and Canadian society as a whole.

Put it this way: the faster we can all get with the program, hunker down and stop socializing, the faster we can eventually resume some sense of normalcy — and the faster we can rock out together again. And what a party that will be. But we have to get there first.

I understand that some of us do not have the option of staying home. We all have to work for a living. Our health care workers are on the front line, and they are sounding the alarm the loudest. We must take heed. The unsung heroes among us must be those who show up to drive the trucks and the taxis, stock the shelves and ring us through at the register.

And so, a massive thank you to those workers, on behalf of the rest of us, who scramble into Shoppers Drug Mart and Safeway for the last 48-pack of toilet paper. I witnessed an extremely frustrated London Drugs manager kicking a guy out of the store for repeatedly returning for… more toilet paper.

You may recall that, just two weeks ago in this space, I was seriously questioning our family’s plans for a spring break vacation to visit my wife’s parents in Palm Springs, with a detour to Disneyland.

Many have asked if we proceeded with the trip. We did not. The grandparents are at home in Ontario. Last week, I convinced my parents to leave the pool in Florida and get back to Canada. They eventually agreed and are also now at home.

My wife and children had a Plan B: to hop a couple ferries and escape to the wilderness. That is now on hold for the time being, too. Plan C: we are in Vancouver, where I have been instructed to work from home.

Even though I’m scared, my wife and I repeatedly and softly explain the situation as best we can to our children, ages six and four. The fact that Disneyland is now closed did not go over well with my son, but he came around fairly quickly. (Since opening in 1955, Disneyland has only been closed twice before: on the national day of mourning in November 1963 for President Kennedy and on 9/11. Until now, Disneyland has never been closed for a prolonged period.)

At home we shall remain, until it is safe to do otherwise.

And make sure you take time out to laugh. Watch Curb Your Enthusiasm. Listen to Conan O’Brien’s podcast. Check out all of the amazingly creative live streams that are emerging.

I will leave you with this abridged and very sage to-do list from Toronto doctor Hy Dwosh, the director of critical care response teams for the Greater Toronto Area:

  • Minimize all social contact. The fewer people you encounter in your daily life, the safer you are.
  • Don’t run to Costco to stock up on toilet paper and wipes. Those crowded supermarket lines are an ideal breeding ground for viral transmissions.
  • Do as much online ordering as you can for groceries and staples. If you must go out for groceries, stay away from busy supermarkets, go at off hours — especially ones open 24 hours. You can also pick up break, milk, eggs at a local convenience store with smaller crowds and fewer people.
  • Avoid public mass transit.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water constantly and avoid touching your face.
  • Don’t travel unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t go to the gym, mall, movies, restaurant or café. And please don’t let your kids go out to parties and play dates.
  • Wearing a mask out in public will not help you very much.
  • Lastly, do not try to get your hands on the N95 respirator mask. There is a global shortage of these masks. These are specialized masks needed only in hospital settings.

My deepest well wishes for your good health. Chat with you again next week.

@grantlawrence

grantlawrence12@gmail.com