This weekend is a challenge - can we individually keep that two metre distance and prevent the transfer of the COVID virus from person to person

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2020



During a day long council session, working as a Standing Committee, Mayor Meed Ward made the comment that “if we continued doing what we normally do as a city until the end of June we will be looking at being $10 million dollars in the hole. If we continue doing what we usually do until the end of August we will be $18 million dollars in the hole.”

Her point is well taken. We do need to get people back at their desks and their factories and get to the point where the lock down is over.

Burlington has shown exceptional discipline in adhering to the rules. City manager Tim Commisso pointed out that the infection and death rate in Burlington is ¼ of what it is nationally.

The ceremonies over the Naval Promenade becomes the fous with the Seniors' out in force listening to the All MAle Welsh Choir. Strolling along is Craig Stevens, the city's project manager on the pier project. He direction and oversight kept the project going when it got a little wonky at times - but that's another story.

This kinf of congregating won’t be permitted – not fo awhile.

We are going to have to continue to come out of the lock down we are in very slowly. Commisso said it was very easy to shut everything down – what isn’t easy is starting everything up again.

The Parks and Recreation program that was planned for the summer has been scrapped. They are working on what they think they might be able to do come the fall.

The message here is – we are doing what we have to do and we really really need to continue to following that six foot rule. That means staying at home – when you do go out don’t congregate with other people. Live within your bubble – that is the people you live with.

For some this is very hard. For very young children its is even harder – they are not used to going without; this is something they have not experienced before.

This holiday weekend is usually the beginning of being outside much more. The weather forecasts suggest that it will be warmer – T shirt weather – maybe even shorts.

Follow the rules, follow the rules. If we blow it this weekend we will have put ourselves back and the restrictions will be back in place.

We will know in two weeks if we behaved the way we are going to have to behave. This virus is passed from person to person; don’t be one of those who picks it up from a person you didn’t know all that well and got too close to.

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8 comments to This weekend is a challenge – can we individually keep that two metre distance and prevent the transfer of the COVID virus from person to person

  • Carol Gottlob

    This whole question of going to the cottage or not going to the cottage is clearly fraught with tension (no need for the insults), but it is also clearly a first world problem. No one is asking you to never go to the cottage again; just not right now, for obvious reasons.

  • Tom Muir

    I abstracted this science based practical advice as help for how we behave this weekend, and more generally, as we try to get out of this bad place, from this link. Folks can go there to get the whole read, including back-up links.

    The reason to highlight these different outbreaks (shown in the whole text) is to show you the commonality of outbreaks of COVID-19. All these infection events were indoors, with people closely-spaced, with lots of talking, singing, or yelling. The main sources for infection are home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, and restaurants. This accounts for 90% of all transmission events. In contrast, outbreaks spread from shopping appear to be responsible for a small percentage of traced infections. (Ref)

    Importantly, of the countries performing contact tracing properly, only a single outbreak has been reported from an outdoor environment (less than 0.3% of traced infections). (ref)

    So back to the original thought of my post.

    Indoor spaces, with limited air exchange or recycled air and lots of people, are concerning from a transmission standpoint. We know that 60 people in a volleyball court-sized room (choir) results in massive infections. Same situation with the restaurant and the call center. Social distancing guidelines don’t hold in indoor spaces where you spend a lot of time, as people on the opposite side of the room were infected.

    The principle is viral exposure over an extended period of time. In all these cases, people were exposed to the virus in the air for a prolonged period (hours). Even if they were 50 feet away (choir or call center), even a low dose of the virus in the air reaching them, over a sustained period, was enough to cause infection and in some cases, death.

    Social distancing rules are really to protect you with brief exposures or outdoor exposures. In these situations there is not enough time to achieve the infectious viral load when you are standing 6 feet apart or where wind and the infinite outdoor space for viral dilution reduces viral load. The effects of sunlight, heat, and humidity on viral survival, all serve to minimize the risk to everyone when outside.

    When assessing the risk of infection (via respiration) at the grocery store or mall, you need to consider the volume of the air space (very large), the number of people (restricted), how long people are spending in the store (workers – all day; customers – an hour). Taken together, for a person shopping: the low density, high air volume of the store, along with the restricted time you spend in the store, means that the opportunity to receive an infectious dose is low. But, for the store worker, the extended time they spend in the store provides a greater opportunity to receive the infectious dose and therefore the job becomes more risky.

    Basically, as the work closures are loosened, and we start to venture out more, possibly even resuming in-office activities, you need to look at your environment and make judgments. How many people are here, how much airflow is there around me, and how long will I be in this environment. If you are in an open floorplan office, you really need to critically assess the risk (volume, people, and airflow). If you are in a job that requires face-to-face talking or even worse, yelling, you need to assess the risk.

    If you are sitting in a well ventilated space, with few people, the risk is low.

    If I am outside, and I walk past someone, remember it is “dose and time” needed for infection. You would have to be in their airstream for 5+ minutes for a chance of infection. While joggers may be releasing more virus due to deep breathing, remember the exposure time is also less due to their speed. Please do maintain physical distance, but the risk of infection in these scenarios are low. Here is a great article in Vox that discusses the low risk of running and cycling in detail.

    While I have focused on respiratory exposure here, please don’t forget surfaces. Those infected respiratory droplets land somewhere. Wash your hands often and stop touching your face!

    As we are allowed to move around our communities more freely and be in contact with more people in more places more regularly, the risks to ourselves and our family are significant. Even if you are gung-ho for reopening and resuming business as usual, do your part and wear a mask to reduce what you release into the environment. It will help everyone, including your own business.

    This article was inspired by a piece written by Jonathan Kay in Quillete

    COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons

  • Fred Hendriks

    I walk in Spencer Smith Park twice daily. Most pedestrians respect the 2 meter distancing except for cyclists even though bicycles are prohibited. There appears to be no enforcement.
    It would be interesting to find out how many warnings and tickets have been issued in Spencer Smith Park since big no bicycle signs have been put up.

  • Stephen White

    People can handle social distancing while remaining at home when it is cold or raining out. They can handle it for about 2 months, and then things start to break down. Tempers get frayed, stress increases, mental health problems emerge, the kids are bored, people get restless and then they start looking for an outlet. And then the lid on the pressure cooker blows up.

    Governments walk a risk tightrope between a shutdown on one extreme and opening up completely on the other. If stores can limit the number of patrons and insist they wear protective masks then surely the same paradigm can be applied to those using parks and recreational facilities. State governors in the U.S. who have recognized this and planned responsibly for gradual opening (i.e. DeSantis in Florida, Polis in Colorado, DeWine in Ohio) have managed to loosen restrictions while still containing the virus spread. Those that have imposed severe restrictions (i.e. Newsome in California, Witmer in Michigan) are increasingly under siege and facing a monumental public backlash.

    The Mayor and the City Manager need to get out front with an opening strategy. They also need to recognize they are dealing with an evolving situation. The heavens aren’t going to suddenly open in two weeks with a loud baritone voice proclaiming to an assembled multitude that the pandemic is over and life can now return to normal. People will respect reasonable measures if they can see some improvement or gain. However, when the focus is on maintaining draconian controls, or enacting inane, idiotic programs to control insignificant problems (i.e. stray dogs, the number of cars in a parade) then don’t be alarmed as civil disobedience takes on different forms.

  • Penny Hersh

    Eva, totally agree with you. I question the numbers that are being reported for our region. Without proper screening it is my opinion that these numbers are not relevant.

  • Penny Hersh

    I find it interesting that people think that this long weekend should be treated like a vacation. As a permanent resident in Cottage Country said on the news last night ” this is a pandemic not a vacation”.

    Why the rush to get to cottage country for those who have cottages? We have been on a forced “vacation” for 2 months.

    I question just how seriously many of the residents of Burlington are taking this. This week I went to a clinic for blood work and a fraction of the patients were wearing a face mask. One of the women was pregnant.

    I just don’t understand why residents are so reticent about protecting themselves and others by wearing a face mask. If everyone wore a face mask we would be protecting each other.

    Stay home this weekend. Do we have to pray for cold weather and rain to keep people from congregating and potentially infecting others?

    • P Clark

      We aren’t going to our cottage, but if we chose to, we should be welcomed with open arms. We have not been on a “vacation” for months. We have been under mandated quarantine. Many people have been working from home, often more hours than usual. Many of us with young children and toddlers, have done so with no child care, schools, no help from grandparents or neighbors, and no activities or parks for our children to experience. Your retired, entitled, “holier than thou” attitude is insulting but not surprising. OK BOOMER!

  • Eva Amos

    Wonderful to read that the infection and death rate is 1/4 of what it is nationally but in reading Inside Halton it is reported that Halton region has one of the lowest rates of COVID19 tests per capita in Ontario. Do we really know then the rate of infection. How many people may be asymptomatic walking around and potentially unwittingly spreading the virus?