Driving around our town this weekend, you’d easily forget that two months ago, everything shut down because of COVID. We took a drive down toward the museum on Saturday afternoon and counted 58 cars parked along the highway, as people hiked the hills and picnicked in our parks. It’s hard, when you see this, to remember that although we have flattened the curve, we aren’t over the hill yet.
As the government has launched its phased approach to re-opening the province, you’ll find many businesses taking slow steps towards a relaunch. That includes our clinic, and I suspect many other medical clinics across Alberta. As nice as it would be to open our doors and see all our patients in-person again, we must resume operations safely to protect our patients and our staff.
For most physician offices, clinic visits will remain virtual or via telephone when a physical exam is not required (e.g.: routine prescription refills). When a physical examination or a procedure is required to ensure adequate care, we will plan an in-person appointment. This stepwise approach to reopening will help us identify and address any practical challenges presented.
As a result, however, many businesses are waiting to open. Weighing the pros and the cons of opening altogether. Employers must have clearly documented policies to notify employees and customers of the steps taken to prevent the risk of transmission of infection in the workplace. The pressure to keep staff and clients safe is significant. Dentists and dental hygienists will be gowned in what looks like hazmat suits. Hair salons may consider masks and disposable capes, while staggering staff and clientele. Restaurants and pubs must limit patrons and ensure social distancing. Owners will be anxious to maintain excellent sanitation practices to avoid any sort of contamination, but let’s be honest: would you eat at a busy buffet? Retail stores must consider the risk of contamination and determine how to minimize the handling of their products: do you allow returns? Do you allow clients to try on clothing, and if so, do you clean it after?
In addition, how do you create a warm and welcoming atmosphere with signs to keep social distancing, wash your hands, and warnings to stay away if you have symptoms (it’s allergy season and everyone has a runny nose)? The situation is fluid and the Public Health Guidelines will no doubt change with time. For sure our small businesses are stressed about how to keep up with the changing regulatory hurdles. One thing we can do to help these businesses succeed is to be patient with, and non-critical of their endeavors. We have a collective responsibility to support them as they navigate these unchanneled waters.
I suspect we may never reach the same concept of “normal” as we did prior to COVID, but we certainly won’t get even close until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize. COVID has disrupted our lives, our lifestyles, and our livelihoods, but we must keep moving forward with baby steps. As we all no doubt learned from the classic fable, Turtle and the Hare: slow and steady wins the race.