Revelstoke is not social distancing, and it needs to change fast

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RCMP officers head into Centennial Park on a foot patrol on March 21. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

I’ve been going for runs around Revelstoke every day for a break from being cooped up at home.

From my experience, I can report that many people are not practicing self-isolation steps. It’s surprisingly common given the gravity of the COVID-19 situation.

On Saturday, I ran the Greenbelt and other parts of town, and what I witnessed on my run is about half the people are practicing social distancing, the other half aren’t.

On my run, it started with a group of seven parents huddled in a group in Kovach Park while their kids played together on the jungle gym (the park is officially closed, but that didn’t stop the play date, and didn’t hold up the several young people huddled together at the snow-covered skatepark building ski jumps.)

Then it was a group of three twentysomething women walking shoulder to shoulder on the Greenbelt. Then another group of three twentysomethings, a man and two women, same shoulder-to-shoulder walk/chat.

In Centennial Park, a group of four sat on a bench and chatted. The night before in Centennial Park, a large group gathered to drink and party.

The demographics of another family group of four I passed in Centennial Park looked like they must live in two separate residences, yet they were packed in a group.

People have been calling me with reports of large house parties happening daytime and nightime. I drove by one of them and, yep, a large backyard party with dozens of people not taking any precautions.

A massive social shift is needed urgently, but how?

During my entire life, the major crises that have affected North America as a whole, such as foreign military adventures, or even the terrorism era, has had a minimal impact on day-to-day life in Canada.

The Afghanistan War, for example, was basically imperceptible for us, except for those sent overseas to do the dying for us. Everyone could safely ignore the war because there was no threat to our daily lives.

This is different, and frankly, transformative to our society. I think everyone gets that now. But the reality is we need people to transform their behaviours now, but how do we make that happen?

Statistically, about 40% of Revelstoke residents suffer from literacy challenges to an extent that it impairs their ability to function in society; this includes things such as not accessing social media or any web content, let alone picking up any kind of reading material.

There are a lot of people who have long since checked out of society to some form or another. I’m one of them, to a degree. I don’t watch TV. I don’t have cable. I haven’t watched TV, other than streaming videos, for the vast majority of my adult life. I’m sure there’s tons of COVID-19 content on the tube these days, but I have no idea what it is.

Our contemporary reality is we don’t know where everyone gets their information from, and we should acknowledge that.

In Revelstoke, however, each of us has the ability to influence the situation on the ground.

The most effective tool that we have influence over is social pressure, and that needs to be applied by everyone. I know, we’re Canadians, so we don’t call people out and start shit unless we’re playing hockey. But that’s a convention we need to break fast.

In these times, it goes without saying that there’s a lot of stress and anxiety out there, and people are pretty keyed up, making it even harder to reach them. I suggest reaching out with kindness and helpfulness, but be sure to reach out and let people know how dangerous their behaviour is to themselves and others.

One thing people not practicing social distancing seem unaware of is the harder societal attitudes that are just around the corner, when fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, and children start getting sick and dying. Some will recover, some will not die but be physically scarred for life, and others will die a horrible death, gasping for their last breaths before succumbing.

Attitudes, many of which are pretty hard already, are going to harden very fast. Even today, the provincial government said it’s not ruling out criminal penalties for those who don’t self-isolate after returning home.

Some jurisdictions have imposed much stricter rules, such as not being allowed outside at all, or limiting people to groups of two.

When cases are detected here, the B.C. Centre for Disease control starts contact tracing, a process where they try to find out all the people the infected person has been in contact with, what big events or group settings they attended, and who they went for a play date with in the park.

After that, they inform people, where appropriate, who have been exposed as a result of contact.

Given the multiple known cases here, and the probability of many asymptomatic people already walking around Revelstoke, do you want to be the person who hosted a barbecue that can be directly traced to killing someone’s wife or husband? What will you say to your grieving friend?

The key, really over the next few days, is for each of us to be part of breaking the chain of ignorance. That means influencing your friends, peers, co-workers, employees, family and everyone you can, letting them know the seriousness of the situation.

Be nice. Have a chat. Kill them with kindness before they kill someone for real.