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COLUMN: Messaging around stay-at-home order clear as mud

We are under stay-at-home orders, but as columnist suggests, we just don't seem to understand
2020-08-20 Doug Ford OPP announcement 1
Premier Doug Ford is shown in a file photo from August speaking at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

I am so confused. I have no idea if I am supposed to stand up, stand down, stand by, sit still, sit down, or shut up.

I may also have gotten my political messaging mixed up there, as well.

Forgive me, but it has already been a long 2021 with the U.S. Capitol riot, impeachment, new COVID-19 numbers and another pandemic lockdown.

Whoever was sitting around the big premier’s desk on the day of the recent updated rules missed the chapter about clear and concise messaging.

I swear I have read the guidelines a handful of times and still find it clear as mud.

No doubt it must be incredibly difficult to set out the regulations and remember to cover every situation. I understand that. I also understand that we, as a people, need to be treated like children.

Sad but true. Don’t give us too much information or too many options.

What’s that old principle? KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Basically, we are being told to stay home in Ontario!

I get that part.

It all goes to heck in a handbasket when they add in “unless it is for something essential.”

Essential is defined in the dictionary as “absolutely necessary” or “extremely important."

Then, all of a sudden, we turn into toddlers.

Officials: “Stay home.”

Us: “But, why?”

Officials: “Because it is necessary to cut the cases of COVID. If we stop moving, so does the virus.”

Us: “But, why?”

Officials: “To keep everyone healthy.”

Us: “Can we go to the store?”

Officials: “Yes, but only for essential items like groceries.”

Us: “What if snacks which are not essential for nourishment, but are essential for my mental health jump into my shopping cart? Is that OK as long as I don’t enjoy the shopping trip and do it quickly and with a mask on? Is a coffee run essential? Not necessarily for me, but it might be for you if you want me to maintain my cheery disposition. Alcohol? Same reasoning.

We are such individualists. What is essential to one is not to another. What is a need versus a want?

When the rule makers say we should not go to the gym, I applaud that in the deepest way. Others feel traumatized by being cut off from their daily health regimen.

I am confused about travel between zones. Are we still doing those colour-coded regions? I swear the days and weeks are all blending together.

I think we should not drive from a high impact zone (red or grey) to a lower impact zone (yellow) for fear of spreading the virus.

Stay home or at least close to home, right?

The problem is the government is trying to make rules that take in all the variables and it just doesn’t work. Some residents live in big cities. Others in rural areas. Some have big families. Some live alone. It's tough to generalize.

To be fair, there are legitimate questions about what is allowed and what isn't.

It just seems to me if it's not a blanket lockdown — same rules and same consequences — people will find ways around the guidelines.

Unfortunately, people being people, if you make it a guideline rather than a rule, people will do as they please.

Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones is quoted as saying penalties for breaking a stay-at-home order could include up to a year in jail. Hefty fines are also possible. The latest provincial order gave law enforcement and bylaw officers more power to question where people are driving to, where they are going to work or why they are gathered in a group inside or outside. 

Still, in the same breath we are told we will not be carted off to jail for infractions.

Let’s face it! We don’t like to be told what to do. We don’t like restrictions.

But, we, the children, need discipline.

So, when Doug Ford says “use your common sense” or “use your best judgment,” it seems to me we can’t be trusted.

Unfortunately, it seems we are in the mess we are in because we were left to our own devices.

About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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