Less shame, more leading by example to curb COVID-19 among partiers
VANCOUVER -- With the number of COVID-19 infections rising, B.C. officials and experts alike are taking a "learn from your mistakes" and "lead by example" approach in reaching out to those partying during the pandemic, particularly young adults.
Videos on social media showing crowds of predominantly 20-somethings socializing shoulder-to-shoulder on Vancouver’s Third Beach and in Kelowna have the premier and the province’s top doctor uneasy about the growing number of infections, and more than 1,000 self-isolations province-wide, that come with them.
"When your your buddies contract COVID-19, that gets your attention pretty quickly, and we've seen a spike in cases. We've seen now many, many British Columbians in isolation because of the contacts that they've had," said Premier John Horgan.
"If you're going to have a party, you're going to have some fun, keep it to the people that you know. If someone from outside of your group outside of your bubble is participating, keep your distance, because you don't know where those people have been, and those people could have touched thousands of other people that could put you at risk; these are pretty basic issues."
UBC psychology professor Amori Mikami isn’t surprised to see so many young people getting together now that COVID restrictions have been lifted and the sun is shining.
"Socializing is necessary for all of us humans. And so for emerging adults and people in their teenaged years, too, it's developmentally appropriate to be breaking away in some ways from your family of origin and turning to those friend groups. Meeting other people who are peers that are about your age," she said.
Mikama added there are also physiological reasons for some of the behaviour.
"If you're talking about people the 18 to 25-year-old range it might just be that quite literally their brain has not fully matured – at least in the frontal lobe part which helps them take that pause to say 'gosh, I have this strong impulse to see my friends but in this day and age, what's a safe age to do that?'"
CTV News spoke to several young people, all of whom found it difficult to follow the advice to limit their social interactions. Some did so anyway, while others simply gave up.
"Staying in the house for four months -- as soon as we get the chance to go outside we take it. At the same time we understand certain precautions need to be taken and we need to be respectful of those, but there's so much stuff going on in the world it's like whaaaat? Maybe let's just enjoy life as much as we can, you know?" said a man in his early 20s named Jacob.
"We're not used to it and I don't think we're going to get used to it," admitted his friend, Anai, who said they’ve been socializing almost as they normally would.
"I personally think it's selfish for people to (party on the beach), they're not thinking of others, but I also understand it is hard to discipline yourself not to do that, especially during the time it is-- summertime, you want to get out, nice weather," said Jane.
Like Jane, Matthew said he’s been limiting himself to only seeing a handful of friends in settings they can keep two metres apart.
"I guess we felt we were doing so good for awhile there, people took it a step too far," he pointed out. "I do think it's time we start pulling back again -- otherwise I think we're going to end up in another quarantine situation that could be even worse and I'm not into that."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is counting on young people like them to lead by example as a way of encouraging other young people to bite the bullet – emphasizing it’s not forever, just for now.
"Be my voice on social media, use your influence to share a message with your friends and your connections,” she said on Monday, at the same press conference she warned the province is at risk of "explosive growth" in infections. "Don't let COVID-19 spoil our summer. We can play safe and stay safe and we know what we have to do to do that."
Mikami agrees that the soft hands, encouraging approach is better than public shaming or imposing fines when it comes to changing behaviour among young adults.
"We are very influenced by what we see the people around us doing -- especially the people around us who we perceive as our friends or people who we like or people who we want to get in good with -- this is something we do at every age group. Once other people start seeing their friends taking these precautions that becomes the normal or expected thing to do and they start taking the same precautions and it becomes a new social norm," she pointed out.
"It's hard on all of us to just continue to do this day after day and I think we need a good reminder as a community to step it up again and to just be more vigilant."