Stay-at-home COVID-19 realities a confusing mess of compliance and avoidance, advice taken and advice ignored

A Closer Look

Rallies have been ongoing in Barrie since March 15, contravening the Province’s stay-at-home order. They continue despite police and municipal warnings that protesters and organizers face legal consequences.

Well, it seems like the never-ending pandemic and associated restrictions, like the stay-at-home order we are all supposedly living under, is with us for some time to come, at least to June 2 according to Premier Doug Ford.
He said as much during a press conference today (Thursday), confirming reports that people are supposed to stay home until COVID-19 rates are at a more manageable level. The province’s top doctor, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David William, says that’s around 800 new cases a day or less; the province logged more than 2,700 new cases today, so that June 2 target might be wishful thinking. Let’s hope not.
It seems clear that Ford is taking advice from medical experts like William, but when it comes to listening to other professionals, like the team at the Science Table, Covid-19 Advisory for Ontario, perhaps not so much. That particular group of experts says the Province could open a range of outdoor activities, with very little risk to the public. Paediatricians are also urging the government to reopen outdoor amenities like golf courses, tennis courts, camping, and marinas.
As well as a low risk of virus transmission, getting outdoor activities open would be great for the physical and mental wellbeing of youth who have been cooped up and inactive for more than a year now … no sports and very little in-school learning. It’s the kids who have borne the brunt of the restrictions.
Ford has been criticized for his approach to COVID-related lockdowns, more so as they stretch on. When first announcing the stay-at-home order in early April, he said playgrounds would be closed, only to backtrack days later when just about everyone said that was a bad idea. Over the course of the pandemic, small businesses, including bars and restaurants, were closed, repeatedly, while grocery and big-box stores remained open. Data will tell you those small businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, were exemplary in following COVID-19 cleaning and distancing measures to keep staff and patrons safe, with little to no infections traced to them.
Even though the restrictions remain in place until June 2, or perhaps longer, it seems there are very few consequences from ignoring rules to avoid large gatherings, as evidenced by the so-called ‘freedom’ rallies occurring every Saturday since March 15. The rallies, which attract hundreds of people protesting everything from the lockdowns, to vaccines, to politicians, began at Meridian Place in downtown Barrie, moved to Centennial Park when the City fenced off the first location, and subsequently to the Sadlon Centre parking lot.
Police caution people not to attend these illegal rallies, but it’s obvious they are there to “maintain the peace” and not necessarily to disperse, which is understandable as they don’t have those types of resources, and doing so might just agitate the situation.
For its part, the City talks about injunctions but in reality, there’s likely nothing that can be, or will be, done to discourage such large gathering, which come complete with bouncy castles, barbecues, music and speeches … a real carnival-like atmosphere.
So, this is apparently where we are: a premier listening to some experts, but ignoring others; small businesses with no recorded cases of transmission closed, with larger stores remaining open; hundreds of people gathering for protests, despite evidence that the virus is community-spread, while others at least attempt to abide by the restrictions. And yes, attempt because it’s pretty clear lots of people are out and about.
Let’s hope that June 2 brings with it better news. We can all agree that this has to end.