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EDITORIAL: Staying COVID-19 alert

Dave Mullett and Shara King, co-owners of Midnight Tailors, are producing and selling filtered face masks in the St. John's area. The low prevalence of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador is likely behind the low uptake on wearing masks in public places.
Dave Mullett and Shara King, co-owners of Midnight Tailors, are producing and selling filtered face masks in the St. John's area. Masks are mandatory in public spaces in Newfoundland and Labrador, but here and there some people are showing signs of COVID-19 complacence as other parts of the country brace for a second wave of cases. — Contributed

In Ontario and Quebec, politicians are talking about the arrival of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

In Europe and in Britain, it seems pretty clear that wave has arrived, with infection numbers rising to the point that, in some countries, restrictions are reappearing.

And south of the border in the United States, where the first wave didn’t really end and more than 200,000 Americans have already died of the disease, the numbers are also on the rise again.

We already know that COVID-19 infections move swiftly. Take away basic precautions and the spread can be remarkable.

Here, we’ve been lucky — but we can’t count on that. Cases in Newfoundland and Labrador have been so low as to hardly mark a statistical blip, and by and large, people have taken heed of the provincial government’s requirement that we have to wear masks in indoor public settings. Temperature checks have now been introduced at the St. John’s airport.

But you can’t help but feel that there’s more than a little complacency seeping into people’s behaviour.

On an east end St. John’s side street, a gaggle of teenaged boys headed back to high school on Tuesday, heading in the direction, at least, of Gonzaga. Fifteen in all, they were lumped together in a fug of adolescence, backpacked and bright-sneakered and shoulder tight to shoulder, not one single mask in sight, no physical distancing present. And it’s not a unique situation — it’s likely being repeated on the edges of school grounds at just about every high school.

If peer pressure can play a role in your teen trying a mystery pill at a party or picking up a smoking habit, you can be certain it will play a role in keeping their surgical mask packed tight in a ball in their jacket pocket the moment they are off school grounds. And if your buddy gives you a shove to make a point while you’re walking back to school, you shove him right back, COVID-19 or no COVID-19.

And it’s not only teens who appear to be complacent; many seem to feel that their chin is particularly susceptible to COVID-19 — at least, that’s where they place their masks, their noses and mouths spending time in the open air.

But to get back to teens.

The vast majority of Ontario’s 438 new cases Tuesday — the highest increase since early May — are under the age of 40. Of those 438, 51 are connected in some way to the province’s school system: 26 students, seven staff and 18 other people affiliated with schools.

We already know that COVID-19 infections move swiftly. Take away basic precautions and the spread can be remarkable.

Having all the precautions in the world inside of schools won’t make a difference if teens don’t take basic precautions away from the classroom.

And we can only be lucky for so long.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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