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What do you need to consider as Ontario’s stay-at-home order takes effect? For starters, don’t overthink the restrictions

What do you need to consider as Ontario’s stay-at-home order takes effect? For starters, don’t overthink the restrictions
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As the details and confusion get sorted in the lead up, the Star spoke to experts about what guidelines members of the public should focus on to continue doing their part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 , as well as steps leaders in government should take to improve its pandemic response.

What you can do

Don’t overcomplicate the guidelines — this one is most important

As messaging from the government has changed and led to confusion over the past few months, Barry Pakes, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says to strip away the noise and follow this guiding principle: “The key message is still do your very best not to interact with anyone outside of your household, full stop.”

Pakes advises that members of the public try not to get lost in the “nitpickiness” of the changes and said, “(Do) everything you can not to leave, except for the most essential purposes.”

Be mindful even when you’re outdoors

Staying attentive while outdoors is something that is crucial right now, says Alex Abramovich, an independent scientist who does work with CAMH and the University of Toronto.

“I’ve noticed that people tend to think that if you are outdoors it is safer, or they forget to keep distance; however, we are at a critical point and it is so important that we do our best to keep our distance from one another during this time.”

In addition, much of public health messaging throughout the pandemic has been that if you’re outside and well-distanced from other people, you could forgo a mask, but Pakes says it’s still better to mask up than not. “Masks at all times is really what we should be doing right now.”

What leaders in government need to do

Paid sick leave for workers

Dr. Anna Banerji, Faculty Lead, Indigenous and Refugee Health at University of Toronto wants the public to stop blaming one another.

“I think the vast majority of people are doing the right thing,” Banerji said. “Anyone who pays attention to [the news] is trying to do their best.”

Banerji says that a lot of the onus is on the government to support essential workers with paid sick leave and that these workers shouldn’t be blamed for the high numbers of infections.

“We need to have paid sick leave to encourage anyone who has any kind of symptom —whether it’s minor, or more significant — to stay at home,” Banerji said.

“We need to try to stop people who feel that they have to go to work,” Banerji said, adding that there are various circumstances, like paying rent, that result in people feeling pressure to leave their homes for work. Paid sick leave would help alleviate some of that pressure.

“Who are we to judge what kind of position someone’s in?”

Accessible testing in more workplaces

In addition to taking the necessary precautions to avoid the contraction of COVID-19, Banerji says rapid testing near outbreak sites will help bring the numbers down. She explained that similar to our U.S. neighbours, our front-line workers should have access to at-home COVID-19 testing .

“Those kinds of tests, they can be implemented in factories where people are at risk. I think if they can have that kind of screening on a regular basis, you’d probably (detect) the COVID sooner.”
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