With our Province now into phase 3 of its Restart Plan, many British Columbians are looking forward to getting out and enjoying the summer sun and once again experiencing the many sights that we have to offer – from our beaches, mountain ranges, and hiking and biking trails – and spending more time with friends and family while doing so. However, in our current COVID world, how we spend the summer of 2020 will be much different than summers of the past. While we have more freedom to get back out there, have fun and enjoy the things and places we love, we also need to remember to remain vigilant and be as responsible as possible with the activities we choose.
As the weather gets warmer, British Columbians are going to want to start spending more time outside than in. Barbecues, for example, are a common thing of the summer that bring together groups of people – and while it’s considered safer to spend time outdoors than indoors in terms of the spread of COVID-19, it isn’t entirely without risk. As we saw in Saskatoon last month, there was a community outbreak linked to two large outdoor events with gatherings that exceeded the then 10-person limit. In British Columbia, the current limit for gatherings is no greater than 50 – a number that will remain in place for the time being, per Dr. Bonnie Henry. However, this limit does not mean that a group of 50 people should immediately congregate together at a house party, as in most cases, physical distancing in groups of this magnitude cannot be met. It also doesn’t mean that it’s safe to congregate in groups that are smaller than this, either, as the more people that are together, the higher the risk is that someone (or even you, yourself) might have COVID-19, and could potentially spread it to others.
So, while certain restrictions are relaxing in our province, we need to continue to be mindful of how many people we’re spending time with as well as who we’re spending that time with. As long as you’re safe (i.e. physical distancing by not sitting close together, wearing masks, washing hands and use of hand sanitizer), it can be acceptable to have a get-together with a small social bubble of people and continue to stick to that same group of contacts during the summer months.
Another common question that people have is whether or not COVID-19 can spread through food, and the answer is no. However, at outdoor gatherings such as barbecues, it’s always recommended that you wash your hands before and after eating food, and also avoid sharing your food and utensils with others.
Vancouverites are also able to again enjoy outdoor beaches, pools and spray parks as of July 13th. Pools reopening include those at Kitsilano, New Brighton, Second Beach, and Maple Grove, while beaches reopening also include Kitsilano, English Bay, Jericho, Locarno, Spanish Banks, Sunset and Trout Lake. Beaches in Vancouver will be patrolled every day from 11:30 AM to 8:30 PM until September 7th. Anyone wanting to swim should arrive ready, as changerooms will not be available. Washrooms, however, will be open to the public. You will also be required to book 45-minute swim periods at pools, while staff will set aside 30-minute periods so that areas can be well sanitized for the following group. You will also not be able to rent things like goggles or towels.
You can learn more about the facilities that will be open, along with their protocols, by visiting www.vancouver.ca.
While the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, phase 3 means that British Columbians can think about non-essential travel within the province. However, this also comes with needing to take extra precautions as well as be mindful of communities you might be visiting – particularly if those communities are smaller.
First, you should plan your trip in advance. If you’re wanting to stay at a local resort, they may have changed their protocols, so it’s always a good idea to call ahead of time and get as much information as possible on any special policies they may have in place related to COVID-19 so there are no surprises upon your arrival. If you’re used to travelling with a large group, you should also strongly consider decreasing the number of people that you travel with as a way to continue keeping your social bubble small.
For more information on travel exemptions, visit www.canada.ca.
As always, if you feel sick (even if you only have mild cold or flu-like symptoms), you should stay home and consider getting tested for COVID-19. You can find a list of COVID-19 testing centres by clicking here.