Outside of the announcement about having a vaccine that works and is ready to go, Sunday’s announcement about the upcoming end of COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan might arguably be the best health-related news we’ve had since the start of the pandemic more than 15 months ago.
The province moved into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 reopening plan on Sunday, allowing us to have more people at private indoor gatherings, more people in retail establishments and more people at the restaurant table.
But now we can look forward to life returning to normal (or close to normal as possible) in less than three weeks.
No more masks, although some national and international corporations might still require a mask, so don’t ditch the face covering just yet.
We can gather with as many people as we want. We don’t have to worry about having just 150 people in a venue that seats thousands. The Estevan Motor Speedway can fill its 1,500-seat grandstand. The Orpheum Theatre can have both of its theatres at capacity.
Churches can welcome everyone who wants to attend their Sunday services.
We can have our full family gatherings again without having to worry about how many people are present.
Of course, this is not a guarantee. A lot can happen between now and July 11. We could get a surge in new cases that could bring these plans to a screeching halt, or force us to move into a modified Phase 3 of the reopening plan.
You can be sure the government would not want that to happen, not just from a health perspective, but they definitely don’t want to face a public that would be irate at the government for getting their hopes up, only to have these restored freedoms taken away again.
The constant changes in restrictions have been a source of frustration for many, even if the restrictions were pretty consistent in Saskatchewan for the first five months of 2021.
We can look forward to events this summer. It might be tough to pull off the massive community events (although Carlyle is going to have its annual Fun Days in August). But some smaller events can proceed.
(As an aside, if you’re upset about an event not occurring this year, don’t take it out on the organizers. Keep in mind that the people involved with these happenings are largely volunteers, and if you’re upset about events not happening, they`re likely to be even more disappointed. It must be frustrating for them that they could have something, but it won`t happen, because of the planning time required).
The only lingering question is when the Canada-U.S. border will open to non-essential traffic again. That’s a decision that is beyond the provincial government’s realm, although when you listen to Premier Scott Moe, you get the feeling that he wishes it would be open now.
We’re not going to see a full return to normal, at least not initially. You’re going to have a lot of people out there who are skittish about heading out in public or going to a restaurant, or being packed into a grandstand, or sitting in a movie theatre.
And you’re still going to see a lot of people wearing masks in public, even after they aren’t required. Some of them will still wear a mask because of nerves; others might have other health-related reasons for a face covering.
And we need to continue with the vaccine efforts. Once July 11 rolls around, that doesn’t mean that vaccine efforts will halt. The more people who are fully vaccinated, the safer we’ll be.
But for so many of us, this is what we’ve been waiting for. That opportunity to shake hands, hug, see other people’s smiles, come together with family and friends, and to enjoy those large-scale events.
Sunday’s announcement was a reason to celebrate, a reason for hope.
And should we get to July 11, and the restrictions are lifted, that will be an even bigger reason to celebrate.