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Opinion: Stay away from others — it’s the ultimate form of community care

The necessity of social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic
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JULIE SHI/THE VARSITY
JULIE SHI/THE VARSITY

Introverts like me have been preparing for social distancing since we were shy bleacher-type kids, so the break from face-to-face socializing during the COVID-19 pandemic might be a relief for many of us.

It was for me as well, at first. I’ve been staying home for the past few days, and plan to do so for at least another week. Though I haven’t previously been in contact with symptomatic people or travellers, I have commuted frequently and attended social gatherings prior to the widespread adoption of social distancing measures.

I’m thankful to have the privilege of freelancing from home and participating in online classes. I will probably go out to buy groceries, but I will only be seeing friends through my digital screens. I’ve started to catch up on some reading — not the academic kind — and I’ve been watching those weird made-for-TV movies that air on Global TV and the W Network. In the past few days and nights, I have also been going through bouts of anxiety and serious basketball withdrawal.

And yet, it is hard to stay away from other humans. Not everyone may be able to stay home and do classes online like I do, but, if you can, staying home could save someone’s life.

For the sake of our communities, it is important that we recognize this outbreak as what it has now been declared: an emergency. The number of confirmed cases in Canada is rising dramatically on a day-to-day basis, making it even more likely for you to be in contact with someone who has the virus.

That’s why people who attended a recent conference held by the Prospectors and Developers Association in Toronto must self-isolate and self-monitor for two weeks, as an attendee tested positive for COVID-19. Similarly, 20 per cent of NBA players, along with staff and officials, were asked to self-quarantine for two weeks after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the virus.

It has been proven that infected people without symptoms can still spread the virus, but not as much as people who have symptoms such as coughs, fevers, and difficulty breathing. This means that if you have no symptoms, you don’t have to self-isolate, but social distancing is still important.

Even if you are not experiencing severe symptoms, there is a chance that you may pass the virus on to someone with a suppressed or vulnerable immune system who might have a higher chance of complications, including death. Hospitals also have limited capacities, and having a large influx of patients will put great strain on our health care system.

With 424 cases — and rising — in Ontario, staying away from others is the ultimate form of care that we can provide our communities with in this rapidly evolving crisis.

In the individualistic North American culture, it’s easy to get carried away with our own personal fears and start panic-buying all the toilet paper in sight. But this isn’t necessary as there will be enough supply in the coming weeks.

If you have bulk-bought things, consider sharing them with others. If you are healthy and able, consider buying groceries for disadvantaged neighbours. These are trying times for everyone, and we may not even trust our leaders to protect us. That is why we must trust each other.

So remember, keeping two metres apart from others, avoiding gatherings of more than 50 people, and staying home when you can are all acts of love. Your community is counting on you, and in this difficult time we should all keep each other’s wellness in mind.

Hadiyyah Kuma is a third-year Sociology student at Victoria College.