Canindia News

Mixed messages on COVID-19 guidelines adding to the problem

Sabrina Almeida

Everything is open to interpretation! Meaning we see and hear things from an individual perspective. So in order to keep the second wave from overwhelming us, officials must convey the right message about COVID-19 health guidelines as well as ensure they are followed.

It is also why we must refrain from judging those individuals and families who celebrated Thanksgiving with people outside their household… and for no reason other than them thinking it was okay to do so.

A friend called up last Thursday to share the “good news”. It was okay to party with up to 10 people, she said. But she was not the only one who hung on to the provincial guidelines for indoor gathering limits.

A discussion about Thanksgiving celebrations with another friend went the same way. As I argued that we should stick to our household, I was told that it was only a “recommendation” from government officials and not a rule!!! 

According to this friend, his gathering of nine people was well within prescribed limits and therefore okay.

The initial source of the confusion was Premier Ford alluding to having not more than 10 people for Thanksgiving at his home, during one of his daily briefings early October. A reporter called him out during that same press conference and he immediately clarified that celebrations should be limited to one’s household. But if the premier got it wrong, can we blame Ontarians who either did not hear his clarification or blocked it out.

Federal and provincial ministers and public health officials urged, even pleaded with Canadians to keep Thanksgiving parties with one’s household in the run up to the holiday weekend. But the bottom line was that the provincially mandated indoor gathering limit remained the same, and that is what many chose to follow.

So come Tuesday several Thanksgiving party photos with 10 people (or a few more) made their way to social media. A friend who was miffed at this open admission of wrongdoing,   shared a video of the premier asking Ontarians to stick to immediate family in response. But the damage was already done.

Should officials have modified the number for indoor gatherings, at least in the hotspots? Absolutely! It should never have been left open to interpretation or to our discretion. Whether or not we will suffer the consequences of them not wanting to take a stand, and the intermingling that followed as a result of it, will be revealed in the case numbers two weeks hence.

The other confusion seemed to be around the word “family”. Many interpreted it as being okay to celebrate with close kin, putting their older relatives at risk. Several seniors live by themselves so in some cases children and grandchildren planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. One cancelled party would have included 15 guests from four different households. What’s worse is that the majority of visitors were going out to work–in schools, offices, and retail stores. Luckily one of the children, who wasn’t going to attend the party, convinced his parents to call it off. But his siblings didn’t appreciate “his meddling”.  Later, the party organizer grudgingly admitted that it was the right thing to do.

Granted that the province (like many other governments around the world) is walking the tightrope between lives and livelihood and therefore reluctant to enforce a total shutdown on businesses. But what is preventing them from curbing movement between households? With health officials in hotspots like Peel already acknowledging that social gatherings are contributing to the rising number of cases, it is time to tackle the problem head on!

Flouting public health guidelines has serious consequences not just for our vulnerable population but also our frontline workers and health care system. Our irresponsible actions impact not just our vulnerable family members but those working to keep us healthy and safe. Do we have to learn this the hard way? 

Conflicting messages surrounding COVID-19 testing and quarantining worsen the situation.  Does an individual who tests negative before air travel not have to quarantine? Many say no! That’s because they do not understand the concept of the incubation period. Or, that an individual could get infected after the test. That’s why people were queuing up to be tested before going out for parties!

This is not the time to hope that people have understood the implications of not following public health regulations or to rely on their good judgement to avert a health crisis. Rising numbers point to the fact that we are lax. Officials reasoning that a few bad apples are causing the problem and therefore hesitating to roll back freedoms is not helping. 

The premier said he first asks nicely, then begs and then puts down the hammer.  Having been through the other steps, it is time to use the hammer!

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