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Cole’s Notes: Re-opening will be awkward, so be kind

Use your COVID common sense and don’t be rude, Schisler says
Shirley Frost, left, and Gerda Faber, both members of the Wells Gray Lively Arts Society, pick up their feet during a blues song performed by Randy Hedlund and Linda MacKenzie. A Coffee House was held by the WGLAS on Saturday, March 5 in the lodge at the Clearwater ski hill. It was the first Coffee House to be held since COVID-19 restrictions were eased last month. (Stephanie Hagenaars/Clearwater Times)

Should I keep wearing my mask or should I fling it in the closet? Should I balloon my bubble or keep it tight? Should I leave it all on the nightclub dance floor or stay busting moves in the kitchen?

With the recent lifting of most of B.C.’s COVID-19 safety measures, you may have been asking yourself these questions. Everybody’s answer will be a little different depending on their circumstances.

Steven Taylor, a professor with the UBC department of psychiatry, told me in a phone interview this week that when restrictions are lifted, most people “bounce back” rapidly to their old behaviours.

“But that doesn’t apply to everyone,” he said. “Some people are very anxious or they’re slow to warm up and some people are highly anxious and are in need of treatment for their anxiety.”

If you have a friend who’s anxious about re-opening, Taylor recommends asking them what they need and what would help them feel more comfortable.

“Don’t go telling them ‘oh you should take off your mask — let me take that off for you’. You want to enable their sense of control and let them do whatever opening up they want to do at their own pace.”

When you’re indoors, consider wearing your mask to keep yourself and others safe. If someone doesn’t want to stand next to you, give them space. When you go in for the handshake or a hug, ask if someone is comfortable with that first. Essentially: use your COVID common sense and don’t be rude.

When April 8 comes around the B.C. Vaccine Card will be lifted and unvaccinated people will be once again allowed in all the spaces where the card is currently required. In those spaces, the topic of vaccination might be best relegated to the social realm of politics and religion — it’s not worth starting a bar fight over someone’s vaccination status.

As restrictions lift, your friends and family members who are disabled, immunocompromised or elderly will likely feel left behind. For them, it’s not a matter of comfort — COVID is a matter of life and death. Find ways to continue spending time with them in a way that they feel is safe. Don’t make assumptions about what they need. Ask them what they need and respect their boundaries.

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy this period of relatively reduced COVID transmission because it won’t last forever. We are very much still in a pandemic and cases are rising globally. The actions that we take today will have an impact on COVID infections — and restrictions — in the future.

Cole Schisler is a provincial reporter with Black Press Media.

READ MORE: Mask mandate lifts in B.C. Friday, COVID vaccine card program to end April 8


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