Dear Crystal Cox,
My name is Claire Pontefract. I am seventeen, and I live in Oak Bay, BC. Your letter to Mayor Tait has been sent my way, for me to respond to.
Firstly, I completely agree with you that this pandemic has resulted in miraculous impacts on the environment. As a leader on my schools green team and an environmentalist, this makes me incredibly happy. But it’s at a terrible, life-threatening cost that nobody should ever have to endure.
Secondly, I can understand your frustration with Mayor Tait “closing down access to parks, boardwalks, beaches, the skateboard park, putting stupid yellow tape on bicycle racks, park benches, with big yellow CLOSED signs in black and yellow”, as you put it. Due to the pandemic, everything is closing and changing so fast and it’s overwhelming. But contrary to what you might believe, this is 100% necessary.
We are extremely lucky to be living in one of the only places in the world that has handled and is handling this virus appropriately. If you look to our neighbours down south, such as places like Florida, they had full knowledge of COVID-19 and how much it impacted places like Italy and China, but necessary measures were slowly enforced. The week of March 16, the Governor of Florida recommended to the population to practice social distancing. He didn’t put yellow tape on anything. Despite these requests, Clear Water Beach was completely packed. Nobody could even begin to argue that they were social distancing.
Parks must be closed as well. George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, explained that parks throughout BC are seeing more visitors, but unfortunately these visitors are not practicing social distancing. Mr. Heyman added that “The mental and physical wellness benefit of being outside during the COVID-19 pandemic response is important, but keeping people safe right now is the most important thing we can be doing. Until we flatten the transmission curve of COVID-19 and people strictly comply with the PHO physical distancing requirement, provincial park access will be restricted.” These closures don’t mean you can’t do anything at all outside, the government is just limiting any chances of people gathering in large groups or interacting with each other.
Trust me, I completely understand your frustration. I should be having my soccer season right now. More than anything I want to be at a field kicking a ball around. But I understand that although I don’t have soccer right now, these measures (although they may seem drastic to you), are necessary if I want my grade twelve season next year, or my freshman season in university.
COVID-19 is a frightfully real thing. You mentioned that “People are forced out of employment, staying at home, forced to work from home, want to go out for walks in nature, get exercise, do some tricks at the skateboard park, or bike with friends.” I have been laid off from my part-time job due to this virus, and I’m doing school online from home. Despite this and the fact that certain parts of the city are closed, I have been on walks around town, gone on runs, and gone on bike rides. Although you explained that “SARS CoV2 is not spread from sitting on a park bench, skateboards, or bicycle to bicycle,” it is spread when one person has SARS CoV2, and spreads their germs either through speaking, coughing or sneezing, allowing another person to ingest the virus. So in fact, you can spread COVID19 by sitting on a park bench if you are too close, or skateboarding in a skate park (as people could touch a part of the park and COVID-19 germs can survive on surfaces for a few hours up to a few days), or people could not listen to social distancing rules and might skate in groups. I’ll agree with you that biking is a great idea to pass the time, and you can bike around neighbourhoods with your family.
If you ever want life to go back to normal, you and I, and the rest of the world must adjust to this new, strange life for a while. I know that in a year, if COVID-19 was still a prominent issue because the government didn’t enforce these restrictions now, I would be angry at the government for not doing enough.
As you said, “We need to start facing the hard facts, and living our lives within some sort of normalcy and sanity again.” But I believe, along with the majority of the population as well as Bonnie Henry (the provinces health officer who helped with SARS, H1N1, and Ebola), that the “hard facts’, as you put it, isn’t that we are overreacting to this virus. The facts are, that we must social distance and stay home to flatten the curve. Everyone is suffering from this, nobody is enjoying what is going on. The government doesn’t want to be closing certain places, they have to flatten the curve.
Also, it isn’t your city mayor who is in charge of closing places such as parks and beaches, that was a provincial decision and it isn’t fair for you to get angry at your mayor. He is simply following directions from the province. Parks and beaches are closed throughout all of British Columbia.
I hope after reading my post, that maybe you can begin to understand these ‘drastic’ but necessary measures that you are noticing in your community. I can’t wait to play soccer again and see my friends who I haven’t seen for nearly a month, but I know that right now, while I am sad and missing normalcy, I’m one day closer to giving my friends the biggest hugs, and going back to scoring goals.
I hope you and your family are staying safe!