DR. CARLYE JENSEN Chief of Uxbridge Cottage Hospital & DR. JENNIFER WILSON President of Uxbridge Health Centre
5 Pillars to Guide our Re-entry Our proposal here can be thought of as a blueprint for a safe re-entry: not just for yourself, but for the entire community. While each pillar will not eliminate the risk of COVID19, together they can reduce transmission and provide the strength and support that our community and health care system will need to cope with future surges. To be effective, it is vital that every single person participates to the best of their ability so we have very few cracks for COVID to seep into.
Hygiene – This isn’t anything new. Wash your hands. Wash them well. Wash them a lot. In particular, wash them before and after all outings and before eating. Don’t touch your face. Wash high use surfaces frequently.
Distancing – Micro-droplets that are emitted when breathing, talking, coughing and sneezing remain the main route of spread. This is why physical distancing is still in place and we encourage you to continue to limit your interactions with others. Staying two meters (6’) apart gets you out of the spray zone for most encounters. If you need to sneeze or cough, please turn your face/nose into the elbow and away from others as the splatter zone is much wider than two meters. It is essential to realize the limitations of distancing, prolonged contact in a shared space poses a risk even if you stay two meters apart. While the vast majority of viral particles will not travel beyond two meters, those few that go further will add up to a more appreciable load if you are spending more than two hours together. For example, two employees working in opposite corners of the same room may think it is ok to remove their masks since they are far apart but over several hours of time together in an enclosed space there will be enough to build up of the virus that transmission is possible. On the flip side, seeing a neighbour at the mailbox and having a 10 minute chat at the curbside while keeping 2 meters apart is safe.
Screening and Testing – Workplaces should all institute screening questions for employees to answer before coming to work. Take these questions seriously, and when in doubt, err on the side of caution and stay home. Now is not the time to worry about your unblemished absentee record. They should test anyone with symptoms of concern for COVID at an assessment centre. If you are positive, it allows for isolation, and notification of your close contacts. If negative, you can get back to work sooner. Win-win.
Masks – A simple mask will protect others from your airway droplets. If everyone—even those of us who are feeling well, adopts a mask when in shared spaces, there is less chance for the spread of disease. Of note, as of this publication, this does not appear to be important in outdoor spaces such as trails, walking, running, and cycling where contact with others is brief. If there is an outdoor event like a BBQ or birthday party where you are likely to be around each other for a more extended period of time (which here we would define as 15 minutes because it is likely you will not always be 2m apart) then a mask should be worn by everyone, even kids. If in doubt, just wear your mask.
Culture – Wearing a mask feels strange, especially in public. Staying home for what feels like allergies or minor sniffles doesn’t sit well for those of us who take pride in being a hard-working, dedicated employee. Asking a friend or stranger to step away a few feet feels so un-Canadian, even if we say sorry first. But without a change in culture, behaviours won’t follow. So get out of your comfort zone a little, and bit by bit it will feel easier. Find a fun mask or make your own. Figure out safe ways to re-connect with others outdoors. Help your workplace establish strategies to keep employees and any customers safe.
Your safety and personal freedom are important. Our sincere hope as we enter the next month of this pandemic is that each of us continues to embrace something just as important, the desire to keep others safe. It has always been about the community.