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Confused about your responsibilities to stay home? Dr. Bonnie Henry clarifies

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As you move about Kamloops or any Okanagan town or city, you might think it's business as usual. There's kids playing together in parks, people shopping or lingering or recreating in surprising numbers. 

But Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made clear today that while everyone is encouraged to get outdoors for fresh air — if people don't start following her voluntary directives, she'll have no choice but to impose orders. 

“This is not business as usual,” she said during her daily briefing on the pandemic today, March 19. She stressed the need for everyone to follow the rules of social distancing and not meeting in larger groups.

“We are, obviously, watching this very carefully,” she said. “I can’t say it enough. This is not optional. This is for everybody and we do have the legal authority to enforce it.... This is not a normal time and we need to keep those distances between us,” she said. “While we need to keep essential services going, we need to make sure that we’re able to get the groceries that we need and sometimes hardware that we need if we have issues in our home – but, right now, is a time we want everybody to lay low."

We asked her for clarification about whether people who are not infected or have not come in contact with coronavirus should be carrying on with their lives while trying to observe and practice social distancing or are they expected to stay home while getting some fresh air now and then.

"I think it’s the latter," she said. "This is not a normal time, we need to keep those distances between us… As individuals, I encourage you to get outside. There are things you can do even if we’re doing social distancing. You can walk your pets. You can go for a bike ride. You can play with your kids. These are the things you want to do as a small group, as a family together and maintain your distance from others while you’re outside.”

Children, for example, should not be playing in groups in parks and playgrounds. Youth should not be joining together in basketball games. Friends should not be meeting for coffee. And people should be shopping for essentials only, she said.

While children are not so susceptible to getting ill with the virus, they can transmit it to others when they go home, which can spread the disease to people, like the elderly, who are more likely to get very sick from the disease or even die.

“Particularly with people who have underlying illnesses, who have disabilities, people who are older and are more vulnerable to having severe illness with this - we want you to stay home and we, as a community, need to support people to do that,” she said.

Here are the basic Dos and Don'ts of social distancing, as advised by the Public Health Agency of Canada and chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam:


  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Get fresh air, go for a jog or walk your dog but always keep two metres (six feet or about two arms-lengths) distance from other people.
  • Go to the grocery store or pharmacy as needed but keep the two-metre distance and wash your hands upon your return home. Shopping online and arranging to have things dropped off at your home is even better.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food. The extra scrubbing time matters. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren't available.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Dispose of any tissues as soon as possible in a lined wastebasket and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). This includes things like doorknobs, toys, toilets, phones, electronics, remote controls and bedside tables.
  • Use technology to keep in touch with people at higher risk like the elderly or those in poor health. Avoid personal contact.


  • Avoid non-essential gatherings. That means no visits with your neighbours or friends, no play dates, no sleepovers, no parties and especially no public gatherings in crowded spaces, like conferences, concerts or sporting events (if there are any on).
  • Avoid public transportation or, if you must use it, travel at uncrowded hours.
  • Don't shake hands or kiss cheeks in greeting.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

— With files from Canadian Press

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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