In Our Words: Yes, the rules do apply to you

People always seem to think that laws monitoring behaviour don’t apply to them.

Let’s say you’re on Highway 10, driving out of Flin Flon and you go through the Big Island or Bakers Narrows area. Locals will know the speed limit drops down from 100 kilometres an hour to 70 in both of these areas - after all, people live there and local traffic uses that road sometimes.

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It’s easy enough to follow that while driving. Doing so on a journey south will add maybe two minutes to your drive. Not hard to grasp.

That said, if you’re in a rush or you’re impatient and you think you might get away with it, do you continue through the area at 100 clicks or more? Quite a few people seem to. “That sign clearly doesn’t refer to me,” you might think. “That’s for other people to worry about.”

Nope. You’re still getting dinged if there’s police nearby. That law applies to you.

If you go to a river and there’s a sign that says “don’t feed the ducks,” it’s easy enough to not - but if you’ve come there with the family and you’ve brought some bread specifically to feed them… well, we can bend that rule, right?

Nope.

The reason rules and laws exist is to govern the behaviour of everyone by acceptable limits and standards. We can’t steal things or stab people. Fair enough.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s switch gears to something that happened in Winnipeg last weekend. About a hundred people showed up at the Legislature in Winnipeg to protest the COVID-19 lockdown we’re experiencing, similar to protests we’ve seen in the U.S. at various points in the outbreak.

I guess we won’t have to wander far to find next year’s crop of potential Darwin Award winners.

Photos and accounts from this march of dunces included pitching conspiracy theories about China, the origins of COVID-19, the World Health Organization, saying that hospitals are empty and therefore the virus is not that bad (ignoring that literally the entire point of social distancing is to keep it that way), saying that vaccines are somehow dangerous (spoiler: they aren’t) and other traditional quack favourites.

Were people at this rally socially distancing or wearing masks? Take a guess.

It’s worth noting that public gatherings have not been authorized by any level of government in our area right now. In Manitoba, public gatherings of 10 or more people aren’t likely to be allowed until the fall at the earliest. People violating that willingly can be fined up to $1,000 or even be jailed.

The laws apply to these goofs. The rally, in principle and in execution, was a clear violation of public health orders. There ought to be punishment for such actions.

It is my sincere belief that if one of the attendees of this rally gets COVID-19, then transmits it to someone else who then dies of the disease, they should face prosecution. If contact tracing can firmly tie a death to another person’s negligence, that sounds to me like a manslaughter charge.

If anyone in Flin Flon has a similar idea, consider this - if I hear about it, I will show up. I’ll even take photos and name names, too. After all, the public has a right to know about potential health risks.

Let’s change up again, this time to northern Saskatchewan. Anyone who’s been paying attention to COVID-19 in Saskatchewan knows there’s two separate situations going on there - while the south goes ahead with measures to reopen business, the far north remains locked down with multiple outbreaks to worry about.

La Loche has been the epicentre of the northern outbreaks. The reason the outbreak in La Loche began in the first place was a violation of the law - transport between northern Alberta and northern Saskatchewan was restricted, but that didn’t stop someone from bringing the disease from an oil sands camp to La Loche.

According to community council reports, as recently as last week, there were still reports of people hanging out together, driving together, drinking together and doing group activities in La Loche. I’ve been told things have changed in the community now that COVID-19 has gotten even more serious. That’s good, but why was this continuing on in the first place? People thought the law didn’t apply to them.

Let’s stay in the north. I’ve heard a few complaints lately from people who live down south but have cabins or camp up north, people who go to Jan Lake, Denare Beach, Deschambault Lake, Bakers Narrows, all the familiar places. They can’t head up to the lake for May long weekend. There was even supposed to be some kind of protest at Smeaton, with people showing up with boats and campers and all, in defiance of travel restrictions.

Good. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a reason why you can’t travel up north right now. It’s to prevent further La Loches from happening. While I’m sure you’d want to spend some time at a cabin with a cold one right now, the ongoing health of people who live here – especially people in remote and Indigenous communities where health care is nominal at best – is far more important.

Keep some perspective. A weekend at the cabin is not more important than someone else’s life. Besides, it’s freezing out here right now and all the lakes are still covered in ice. Even if you could come up north right now, it won’t be fun. Imagine breaking the law and putting others’ health at risk to spend two days at a cabin... then spending the whole time shivering with nothing to do.

Want to avoid that? Follow the rules. The cabin can wait. The fish will be there later. Us townies, on the other hand, would rather not have a group of tourists potentially bringing up a deadly virus with their boats and trailers.

Do you know how a COVID-19 test works? The test is done by a nasopharyngeal swab - taking a cotton swab, like a Q-Tip but half a foot long, and shoving it deep up someone’s nose for 15 seconds, spinning it around while hitting the back of your throat - then doing it again in the other nostril.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Want to know how you can avoid that? Follow the damn rules.

During COVID-19, any community is only as strong as its weakest link. If that weak link fails, it starts a chain reaction that could end in calamity. We’ve seen it in La Loche. We’ve seen it in seniors’ homes out east, where the disease has run roughshod over vulnerable elders.

One of the most dangerous aspects of COVID-19 is that it is a new disease. Research has come a long way in a short time, but there are unknowns.

What we do know is that COVID-19 is highly transmittable and can be contracted from people who don’t show symptoms. There is a latency period. Someone with no symptoms can still transmit the disease. This is why we have such draconian rules on movement and work in place. No unnecessary risks can be taken. No halfway measures can be allowed.

Nonetheless, those laws are meant to be followed by everyone. You and I aren’t special. We need to follow the laws for the safety of ourselves, our families, friends, neighbours, coworkers and others.

Don’t feed the ducks.

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