Our focus in recent weeks — recent months, really, how crazy is that — has been on essential businesses and the efforts they have gone to in order to operate safely, for their staff, and for us, their customers.
This week’s business openings add another layer to the conversation. Retailers who had just become accustomed to curbside pickup, are now permitted to open their doors to the public, very carefully. And once the tennis and pickleball courts have been made ready by the Town, those too will open. As will the library, although with a very limited service to begin with. And of course, we listen to the news daily to see what else is changing.
Are we comfortable with the gradual reopenings? Do we feel safe? Or more important, do the business owners and their staff feel safe?
That will depend on how we react.
We need to proceed with caution. And, as we have said before, with kindness, and patience, understanding we are still far from business as usual.
Have any of you noticed an increased number of people wearing masks in public? As we’re told it’s time to safely reopen businesses, it seems the message about wearing masks is becoming stronger. And it’s not about feeling safe or protecting ourselves, it’s about reducing the risk to others, and making them feel more comfortable about being out in public.
It’s not fun wearing a mask. It heats up quickly in that little bit of cotton, and in the short time that we have to wear them. It is slightly uncomfortable, probably because it’s a new experience for most of us, and we feel a little self-conscious. However, it shows we’re thinking of others, that it’s one more way we’re willing to make a small sacrifice to help beat this virus, and to keep others safe. It’s really a small ask, for what could be a huge gain. Agreeing to wear one is a decision to be kind, especially to the seniors in our community who are nervous about being out. That decision could make a difference between continuing to see more openings unroll and a loosening of other guidelines, or having to go back to shuttering businesses and tightening restrictions again.
Masks are likely to be around for a while, so it’s time we suck it up, get used to the mild discomfort, and wear one when we’re out in public.
And when we’ve all got our masks on — not the medical variety, which should be saved for frontline workers, but one of the many alternatives — we might think about supporting local businesses that are struggling, and that contribute so much to the town’s economy. We may not all be accustomed to shopping on Queen Street, but it’s an easy way to get out and shop in person, rather than waiting weeks for something we’ve ordered online. Successful businesses in town can have a ripple effect, so as long as we’re able to be cautious and patient, it may be something to consider. There are already some empty storefronts, and that isn’t good for any of us.
We are all responsible for protecting ourselves, but we also continue to have a role to play in protecting others. We’ve heard that at least one business on Queen Street was fined because customers waiting on the street were not physical distancing, and although it’s important the guidelines are obeyed, it’s easy to understand why that could be difficult for a staff person inside to control what is happening outside. As businesses reopen with trepidation, we can help, by choosing to follow the guidelines set out for us.
We are each in our own situation, our own bubble, of how this pandemic affects us. Some adjust well to staying home but are nervous going out. Others just want to be out and pretending everything is normal. And many are looking for ways to help — there are so many great stories out there of people reaching out to help those in need. For all of us, it’s as simple as helping friends and neighbours by wearing a mask, physical distancing, not touching things when we’re out, washing our hands and making it second nature to keep our hands away from our faces. If we are not infected, we can’t pass it on.
We’d like to suggest supporting local businesses — and one way to do that is by making it possible for staff to come back to work, safely.
If we decide to shop on Queen Street, our businesses will appreciate the support. We’re still being urged to stay home, and only go out if it’s essential. At the same time, our non-essential businesses are allowed to open. It may be a good time to become familiar with those businesses, if we follow all the guidelines. And if we don’t feel comfortable with that, we can look at how to support businesses in other ways, such as shopping online. These are the businesses that support us in better times, by contributing to our fundraisers, sponsoring our minor sports, helping out every time they are asked, and they could use our help.
And as we all work our way through this, we want to say thank you to readers who continue to share your stories, and to businesses for their ongoing support of the community.
We’re all in this together, and we will come out of it together.