Last week, our region was left reeling. After weeks of relative calm, and community pride in keeping our case load of COVID-19 low, four new cases emerged. And not just typical cases – it’s now clear there are people out there who don’t know they’re sick. People who may well be out in our shared communities. Touching shared surfaces. Breathing shared air. It has sparked renewed demands for revealed identities and detailed itineraries, so each individual can know just how close they came to the disease, and sit in judgement of the actions of others. Did they sanitize? Wear a mask? Were they making non-essential trips? Were they being as cautious as me? The lack of control we have over other people can leave us feeling helpless and mad.
But in reality, each of us is in complete control – of ourselves. You can’t change other people; you can only change yourself. So let’s all take a deep breath, wash our hands, and get back to basics. The Northwestern Health Unit guidelines are there so that each person can take control of their own health. Instead of driving yourself crazy, wondering which surfaces were touched by a positive COVID patient, sleep easy knowing that even if you touched it, you kept your hands sanitized between buildings, and off your face. Instead of living in fear that any passer-by might be unknowingly shedding viruses from their unmasked faces, rest assured that you took the effort to keep your safe distance. That you cleaned high touch surfaces, coughed into your sleeve and stayed home as much as possible. These aren’t guarantees – even the most careful of us can still contract this disease, as we’ve seen from public testimony from our latest Fort Frances case. But the guidelines are there so each individual can take control of their own health and the health of those immediately around them.
It’s clear we’re not out of the woods on this one – not by a long shot. Last week’s four cases, although shocking, may have been the reminder we all needed to get back to the basics of social distancing, hand cleaning, limited movements and minimal interaction. There will always be those who disregard the rules, and even those who follow every one and get sick anyway. But public health has given us all the tools we need to keep ourselves safe. Let’s use them.