Publisher’s Column: COVID-19 is About to Get Real in Our Community. Wear a Mask. Yuk.

By John Francis

Back in April and May a lot of MNBP residents got very indignant about people coming up to their cottages during the lockdown. Many felt that this violated the lockdown. The cottagers in question replied that if they stayed at their cottages and stayed away from other people then they couldn’t possibly cause any harm.

It should be noted that they didn’t cause any harm: the COVID-19 count for the Bruce Peninsula remained at zero despite all those cottage visits. This run of good fortune can’t last indefinitely, however. With the number of people coming up to the peninsula every weekend, yelling, sweating, breathing — and improvising outdoor privies — there’s just too much virus floating around for us to stay at zero cases forever.

So if you’re wondering what to do for fun this summer, I would strongly recommend you consider gardening. Or backyard yoga.

Especially on the last weekend in June. That one’s gonna be nuts. Boat Tours don’t start until July 1. The Bruce Trail from Little Cove to Dyers Bay and the parking lots for Halfway Log Dump and the Grotto don’t open until June 29. The crowds on the June 26-28 weekend will have nowhere to go except for the few places that are open.

If you want to preserve physical distancing on that weekend, you may find that leaving your property gets you out of your comfort zone.

I went for a drive on Saturday June 20 to see what it looked like at a couple of spots around Tobermory (see photos, page 20.) There were almost a hundred carloads of people on the National Park shoreline at Little Cove and almost a hundred carloads on the beach at Singing Sands (Dorcas Bay).

I saw a grand total of one person wearing a mask. But this was not a normal party crowd — you could see that they were constantly aware of the need for physical distancing, they were just determined not to wear a mask on their holidays. People walking up the shoreline in both locations stayed a respectful distance from the groups/pods along the shore. The groups themselves were all distanced; they couldn’t have done it better if somebody’d painted circles for them.

Is this good enough? Probably. The famously flagrant gathering at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto last month did not lead to any perceptible outbreak of COVID-19 despite all the indignation it generated. In fact, I have not read of any “superspreader” events that happened outdoors.

But will that level of distancing be possible on that last weekend in June? Stay tuned. I’ll go out and get some photos. Otherwise it might be a good weekend to stay home.

But with the steadily increasing load of non-mask-wearing visitors it’s too much to ask that absolutely none of them carries COVID-19. Some of us are bound to get exposed. It might be a good time for us to start taking this thing seriously among ourselves. Masks and distancing don’t really matter when nobody you talk to actually has the virus. But we can’t count on that anymore. With the number of people who will be coming to our peninsula, some of us are going to get infected.

And if you think that standing 2 metres away from somebody means that you’re not getting any of what they are exhaling, just remember what it’s like standing even ten metres downwind of a smoker. (I had that little reminder on Saturday. A long overdue apology to all those people I smoked around 40 and 50 years ago…)

So imagine you’re smoking. If there’s anybody close enough to smell your smoke, they’re close enough to inhale your “droplets”. When we’re out in public, we should probably be wearing masks, even outdoors. Even among our own community.