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What to expect as Canada reopens — some helpful advice for navigating the new norm

June 1, 2020 • read

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What to expect as Canada reopens — some helpful advice for navigating the new norm

With the arrival of summer, many of us are feeling cooped up at home. The temptation is strong to head outside, get a fresh haircut, and enjoy socializing on a patio. Now that provincial governments are rolling out their reopening plans, normal life is starting to feel within reach once again. 

It’s important to take caution — experts are saying that “normal” might not be realistic for a long, long time. From here on out, we’ll be living in a post-pandemic world. Until a vaccine is found, we’ll have to be aware of potentially exposing ourselves to the COVID-19 virus. 

The key is to listen to your province’s official guidelines. Some provinces, like New Brunswick and Manitoba, haven’t seen many cases of infection and are reopening businesses earlier. Provinces like Quebec and Ontario, which have been the national hotspots, will likely have stricter guidelines for residents to follow. 

Why we still need to be cautious

Why do we need to keep being careful, even though things are reopening? There might be a second wave of COVID-19. We’ve done a good job of flattening the curve, but our hard work could be undone if we start mingling again too quickly.  

Keep these guidelines in mind as we prepare to cautiously go back to normal:

  • The medically vulnerable should still shelter in place. Until the virus is eradicated, they’ll be at high risk of developing serious complications. 
  • Prioritize societal benefit. Which outings qualify as “wants,” and which are “needs”?
  • Prepare to revert back to restrictions again. If we reopen parks and businesses, and suddenly there’s a spike in COVID-19 cases, we’ll likely need to resume sheltering in place. 

Otherwise, it’s alright to be tentatively excited! Read on for predictions and recommendations on different aspects of post-quarantine life.

1. Your job

Employers are currently planning how to bring staff back to the office. For many businesses, this will mean bringing people back in waves. You might find you get called back to the office for just one day a week, or for one week out of the month. Desks will likely be placed further apart, and plexiglass dividers may be installed. Cleaning is also likely to be ramped up, with high-traffic areas like entryways, bathrooms and kitchens getting near-constant attention. 

Your office will probably have new policies in place surrounding COVID-19, which will be worth a read to protect yourself. Try to wash your hands very often while at work, and wear a mask. 

If you have any questions about how your employer is handling staff safety, be sure to reach out to your manager or HR department. They have a responsibility to clearly broadcast safety measures so that everyone feels secure coming back to a shared space. 

2. Transportation

The safest way to travel, in terms of COVID-19, is by car. It doesn’t present any higher risk than simply being at home. 

Public transit will be much riskier. Make sure that you follow hygiene steps like washing your hands before and after your trip, wearing a mask, and keeping six feet apart from other travellers. If possible, travel outside of daily rush hours to minimize the number of people you come in contact with. 

If you’re commuting locally, why not try bicycling? That way you avoid being in close, confined quarters with other people. If you’re renting a city bike, bring disinfectant wipes to pass over the bike’s handlebars and seat before you set off.  

3. Travel

This summer, you might want to stick to discovering the beautiful sights of Canada. The Canadian government is currently recommending against non-essential travel to most countries. 

When will you have the green light to travel abroad again? Here are some clues to know you’re travelling safely:

  • Schools have reopened. 
  • A travel agent is willing to book a trip for you — their business depends on your safety. 
  • An insurance company will grant you a travel insurance policy. 

As it stands now, countries are in different stages of controlling the virus and reopening their public spaces. Travelling internationally would be a big risk for a second wave of COVID-19. Airports are a major hub for disease transmission.

4. Entertainment

If we can’t travel to Europe, at least we should be able to have fun this summer! The good news is that restaurants are beginning to reopen. Patio lounging is looking like a very safe summer activity as long as you’re following the guidelines set out by your local authorities. 

Your restaurant experience will be very different the first time you go back. For example, Alberta requires that restaurants only fill their dining rooms to 50% occupancy. Servers may have to wear N95 masks, and customers are advised to wear masks as well. Music will be kept at a low volume so that people don’t have to lean in close to hear each other. 

What about concerts and sports matches? Unfortunately, any event with packed crowds will likely be put off until 2021. On the upside, there’s been a rise of drive-in events.  

5. Mental health

This has been a tough year so far, to say the very least. Getting laid off has been traumatic for some of us, while other people have had to quickly transition to working productively from home. All the while, a pandemic has totally robbed us of normal life. There’s a lot to be stressed about. 

Remember to keep making time for yourself, even while in quarantine. Cook healthy meals, take a yoga or meditation class, and connect with friends virtually. These will help keep your body and mind happy.

It’s understandable that the usual coping strategies might not be cutting it during these exceptional circumstances. If that’s the case, talking to an online therapist can help. If there’s ever been a time to seek mental health advice, this is it. 

6. Salons and personal grooming

By now, you might have picked up the skills to become a hairdresser yourself. But if you’re itching to get trimmed or shaved by a professional, you’re in luck. Many salons have already reopened in Canada. But, don’t expect the same old treatment when you go for an appointment. 

Hairdressers are advised to wear N95 masks, and clients are recommended to wear non-medical masks when possible during their service. Salon staff will need to be highly trained on how to protect themselves and maintain an extra clean environment. 

7. Going to the gym

Lots of us are pumped to go pump some iron, but gyms will be one of the trickiest businesses to reopen. They see a high amount of human traffic, and patrons touch several machines and equipment items during their workout. 

Toronto gym Sweat and Tonic recently released their plans to reopen, even though they don’t have a date yet. The plans include replacing the gym’s ventilation with a hospital grade system, disinfecting frequently, and only holding classes at 50% normal occupancy. So, expect it to be difficult to book a class or workout slot at your favourite gym. 

Many gyms are offering virtual fitness classes in the meantime. These are a great option to stay safe at home while still getting your sweat on. 

If anything, this pandemic has inspired lots of Canadians to become more self-sufficient at home. We’re building home offices, investing in gym equipment, learning new recipes, and cutting our own bangs. It’s best to continue on this track — we need to reopen society cautiously, with minimal crowds, and be prepared to go back to sheltering in place if needed. We’re not out of the woods yet. 

Even though “normal” might not be a reality for quite some time, we can enjoy the simple pleasures once again as we come out of quarantine. Gathering in small groups, wearing masks, and washing our hands will help keep COVID-19 on the decline. Let’s enjoy summer while it’s here, a peculiar summer it may be.

Talk to a doctor or therapist about COVID-19 online.

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