They seem to think the pandemic is over. But it’s hard to blame them since police are often only metres away paying no attention — as if distancing no longer matters since COVID cases have plummeted.
What’s the public message here? Is this a health buffet where you choose your own rules?
“Hmmm … I’ll have the six-foot distance-walking corridor with an N95 mask, please, while my friend will take the extra-large intimate gathering special with handshakes, hugs and double-cheek kiss?”
Masks are another area with a huge contradictory divide.
I was lined up at a busy Westmount ice cream shop where the staff were all masked, as was every last customer. So were a surprising number of people on the street, obviously still living on high COVID alert.
That’s because Westmount has an older, more vulnerable population where plenty of people are still living in semi-lockdown, quarantining their groceries and mail for days. So wearing masks everywhere naturally makes them feel more safe.
But shortly after, I was in the younger Plateau at a boutique where no clerks or customers were masked — except me. Afterwards I picked up a falafel at a nearby fast food place where nobody wore masks, including the young customers relaxing at indoor tables.
But when the server started to dish out my food, the owner suddenly spotted me and theatrically ordered the server to wash his hands. All the server was doing was ladling out a take-out salad — hardly a hand-washing emergency — but the owner apologized profusely to me.
Given my age he probably thought I was an undercover health inspector there to bust him on a “no-handwashing” offence.
Everyone’s making up their own buffet-style rules. At a third Plateau shop I frequent, the staff dons masks for customers wearing them and removes them for customers who don’t.
It’s a “customer is always right” approach to public health.
The difference between districts is a tale of two cities. In fairness, many clerks in the Plateau do wear masks, as do some young people in stores and even the streets.
But many in Westmount are living as cautiously as at the height of the pandemic, while some in the Plateau seem to think COVID has left town for good.
It’s symbolic of a broader divide in society as a whole. Many people are now having 10-people patio gatherings, while others are scared to gather with anyone but their spouse — if that.
Some Covidiots are stupidly hosting large indoor house parties. Others wouldn’t let firemen into their house in a five-alarm blaze. And with Quebec’s mixed messages, who can blame them?
It’s time for authorities and police to politely enforce some rules. Quebec’s been overly-hesitant to make masks mandatory indoors, province-wide — even for restaurant staff who handle food.
Mayor Plante has promised to enforce mask-wearing in enclosed Montreal public spaces, but not until July 27th. Why wait till then? Perhaps it’s because the calendar says that’s “National Crème Brûlée Day?”
Part of our overall confusion is because science is confused, too. For months health experts shrilly warned us not to wear masks — or touch elevator buttons, groceries, mail or money without instantly washing our hands.
Now many experts say touching things is the least likely way to get COVID, so chill — but wear a mask.
The latest big theory is that microscopic virus particles linger in stagnant air, infecting people nearby, which 239 global infectious disease experts just collectively announced.
So while we’re all pretty safe outdoors where COVID disperses instantly, it’s much more contagious at indoor public places. So movies and especially crowded indoor bars are probably for those with a higher tolerance for risk.
They kept telling us the second wave was coming, but who knew it would be a heat wave?
The sweltering temperatures have made COVID-coping even more tricky, as many people are sweating and gasping through their masks.
It’s also sent crowds off to the beach, especially since we’re told it’s safer outdoors. But that’s overloaded beaches in the countryside and caused COV-irritation in those still living in near-isolation.
It’s all part of our confusing, contradictory new world where fast-changing events, science and personal attitudes have people living in vastly different worlds.
On one hand, Montreal is opening huge pedestrian street corridors to give everyone a full six-feet of walking space. Meanwhile, our parks, bars and streets are filled with crowds, totally ignoring any distancing at all.
In Jeanne-Mance Park near my home, crowds of 10 to 20 people routinely gather, often only a foot apart, sharing picnic food and sometimes embracing.