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Is cottage isolation a good idea in this time of social distancing?
Social distancing is being promoted as a best bet bullet to slow COVID-19, which medical experts say has the potential to infect hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
The whole idea of social distancing is to stay away from places where people gather. The fewer people you are with, the lesser your chances of getting sick.
I can’t think of a better place to find social distance than the cottage.
As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, I’m considering moving to the cottage until the crisis passes.
Most people don’t open their summer cottages until May. However, it’s been a mild winter and continuing above average temperatures make March and April cottaging easier to consider.
I’ve checked out our cottage and it is ready to house me and my wife comfortably for the next couple of months. The three basics we need to live there are in good supply—warmth, water, and light.
Thanks to a windstorm a couple of years back we have four cords of firewood seasoned and stacked. We heat mainly with wood because like many cottagers living on pensions, we find cottage-country electrical rates far beyond our budget.
Water is not an issue because if all else fails the brook down the road is running full stream and snow is melting off the cottage roof. A portable generator or fuel lamps can provide whatever light is needed.
Moving to the cottage to reduce the risk of getting the coronavirus might seem like an overreaction. However, I have had experiences with viruses that have left me a strong advocate of being cautious and being prepared.
In 1968 I caught the H3N2 virus (Hong Kong flu) that killed an estimated one million people worldwide. It put me out of action for three months and left me with a scarred lung.
But my most valuable virus learning experience came in the early 2000s when I worked as a freelance researcher-writer for the SARS Commission investigating that viral outbreak.
The greatest lesson of SARS was the importance of the precautionary principle that we should not await scientific certainty before taking reasonable actions to protect ourselves and others.
Cottage isolation to lessen the risk of contracting COVID-19 is a reasonable exercise of the precautionary principle.
There is another benefit of moving to the cottage. Cottages are good for mental health, and this virus is beating up everyone’s mental health.
It’s not just worries about getting the virus. Businesses are closing their doors or restricting hours. Some employees are being laid off, others asked to work from home. Schools are closed, leaving parents stressed about their children. All these create financial strains.
Cottages are places of calm, where you can take deep breaths and put things in perspective, and perspective is a key element in dealing with problems.
Moving to the cottage during this crisis might be viewed as running away, abandoning responsibilities to family and friends. However, we live in an age of communication in which many cottage areas have cell service, internet access, and satellite television service.
We can keep on top of things from our cottage, and if family and friends need our help, we are only a car ride away.
Moving to the cottage lessens the risk of becoming two more victims to strain an overburdened health system.
Jim Poling Sr. is the author of Killer Flu: The World on the Brink of a Pandemic (Altitude Publishing 2006).