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opinion

Mannequins help diners at at Le Monarque in Montreal maintain phyiscal distance on July 14, 2020.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

If you are confused about some of the protocols put in place to safeguard us all from COVID-19, you’re not alone.

Why can a server in a restaurant bring you a pitcher of water for your table, but not be able to pour it? Obviously, it has to do with wanting to avoid transmitting the virus through human touch. So the server plunks down the pitcher and someone picks it up with their hand and pours for everyone at the table. Huh? And then at the end of the meal, the same server comes around and cleans the table of the dirty dishes – including the pitcher she had to leave on the table at the beginning of the meal.

Does that make any sense? Of course not.

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What also makes little sense is how virus-fighting safeguards often vary from business establishment to business establishment. At this store, you’re allowed to try on clothes. And the one right beside it, you’re not. At this store you’re asked to sanitize your hands upon before entering the store, at the one across from it you can breeze straight in.

At golf courses, players are asked to keep their physical distance while playing. There are often signs around the course, reminding players to keep two metres apart. Nor can golfers share a cart unless they’re members of the same family. Yet after the round, golfers are free to head to the grill and sit around a table with one another, far less than two metres apart.

And what ever happened to these so-called bubbles that we were supposed to create? You know, the ones that are supposed to include family members and a small circle of close friends – people we trusted to not have carelessly exposed themselves to the virus. Walk into any pub or bar, anywhere in the country, and I can assure you, many of the guys and gals sitting around the tables are not part of any agreed-upon bubble. They’re friends that have always enjoyed sharing some beers after work.

There is a great deal of confusion when it comes to what is permissible these days and what’s not. So much of the reopening of economies across the country seems like a patchwork of widely varying protocols, which has left many people confused. The result of it all, however, is a softening, a retreat in our COVID-19 response strategy.

When we were in shutdown mode, it made sense to block off seats on buses and on rapid-transit trains. I mean, there was a deadly virus on the loose. I recently rode a bus for the first time in a couple of months and was surprised to see it was chock-a-block full of people, sitting right next to one another, many not wearing masks. But isn’t that deadly virus still lurking out there?

Grocery stores have abandoned many of their rules. At many today, there is no one monitoring how many people are entering. Where once there were steadfast edicts about which direction you could walk, that has also been tossed aside. We recently went to the main grocery store where I live just outside Vancouver, and it was a free-for-all. And I’d say about only 50 per cent of people were wearing masks. The exact same can be said of many of the big-box operators I’ve attended, such as Canadian Tire and Rona.

I totally get that a majority of the public, and the many businesses that serve it, want life to return to normal as soon as possible. Who doesn’t? But I worry we are jumping the gun here – like really jumping the gun. I worry that we’ve been given an inch by government and public-health authorities and are taking a mile.

And we may end up paying a heavy price for it.

This has always been the great worry government officials and others have had. That we’d relax and see an alarming spike in cases, which would necessitate shutting everything down again – which is precisely what has happened in California.

Maybe B.C. and other provinces experiencing the same scenarios I’ve described can avoid the kind of precipitous spike in cases that we are seeing in the United States. I do think that generally speaking, Canadians have taken this pandemic far more seriously than our American cousins. But we are not immune to the temptation to return to anything resembling the good old days.

Summer was always going to present a unique challenge with a population cooped up for months. Well, that challenge is certainly upon us. Canadians have always been a sensible lot. That common sense wisdom is more necessary than ever now.

Lives depend on it.

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