Reopening society now is the worst thing we could do

Easing quarantine without a vaccine gives people a blank cheque to ignore social distancing guidelines

It would be nice to go outside, but not before it’s safe. Photo: Maxwell Gawlick / The Peak

By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor

Quarantine is tough, there’s no question about it. Even as an introvert I’m struggling. Sure, it was nice at first — not much actually changed from my usual routine of YouTube and reading. But as the weeks have rolled on and only minimal headway has been made in fighting the COVID-19 virus, I’m finding it more and more difficult to remain confined in doors.

And yet indoors I stay, and so should you, whenever possible.

I’m writing as one who has vulnerabilities to increased severity of COVID-19 complications. I also write on behalf of several loved ones who likewise have compromised immune systems or comorbidities that make their likelihood of death that much greater if they catch the virus. And finally, I write as a socially-minded member of society who thinks that loss of life in this pandemic must be prevented above all other concerns.

And so when I see that quarantine restrictions are being lifted around the world, I feel the white noise of anxiety that comes with living in pandemic times rise to full-on panic. The United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world, has already begun the process of easing restrictions. Even here in BC, cautious plans have started to phase out quarantine measures.

The problem is that people are messy, complicated creatures, and we don’t work as neatly as plans and projections might predict. Take for example what happened on the May 9 weekend. Fresh off of the announcement that BC had flattened the curve enough to start easing restrictions, Vancouverites flooded beaches and public spaces, despite the fact that the virus is still present in our communities.

It’s as if we’ve become completely complacent with how infectious this disease is. How it spreads invisibly through asymptomatic carriers, and how long people are infectious before they even show symptoms. People have forgotten that on March 1 we had four confirmed active cases. A month later, it was 435.

I am terrified of what is going to happen in the second, third, and fourth waves of this virus as governments yo-yo quarantine restrictions. How many more people are going to die? How long are we going to draw out the economic devastation by reopening too soon?

I am not going to feel safe going outside, seeing friends and family, or resuming any kind of regular activity until a proven vaccine is readily available. And even then, the fact that the situation with our closest national neighbour has devolved into rhetoric that normalizes acceptance that people are going to be infected and die, I won’t feel safe unless travel restrictions remain in place against countries with out of control active cases.

Right now our best weapon against the coronavirus is social distancing. It is beyond foolish to suggest we put it away before we have an equal or greater tool in our arsenal to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities safe, healthy, and alive.