Isolation Fatigue: Why Some Ignore Distance Rules When Toronto Reopens


It is the first weekend in Toronto since March that people can shop at stores with street entrance, relax in parks and use amenities such as tennis courts, picnic tables and baseball diamonds.

These relaxed restrictions, coupled with warmer weather and people being locked up for more than two months, lead to isolation fatigue for some, says University of Toronto psychology professor Steve Joordens.

As people get more comfortable being back in public, says Joordens, they also feel more comfortable breaking the rules.

“There are a lot of things that make it harder for people to keep following the rules,” he said.

Joordens says that psychologically, it can be difficult to consider a gradual reopening as gradual. For example, meeting with a friend or family member outside your home may not seem as risky when you are allowed to shop in a store with several strangers.

In addition, the innovative ways people connected during the pandemic – including virtual meetings and driving birthday parties – have lost their novelty, added Joordens.

“We also feel the limits of these creative approaches in trying to connect with each other and we feel that they are fading from reality,” he said.

University of Toronto Scarborough psychology professor Steve Joordens says there are many factors at play when it comes to people who don’t follow the rules of physical distance. (Provided / University of Toronto)

He points to the theory of optimal arousal, which suggests that humans need a balanced level of arousal; if there is too much excitement, a person may want a quiet night at home, and if there is too little, they want something to wait for.

“We need fun, fun in our lives,” said Joordens, adding that he is against people who break the rules for whatever reason.

“We can understand that sport and music go out, but the idea of ​​visiting the family and having a barbecue in the backyard [is exciting]. ”

If people are tempted to break a rule, Joordens says it is important not to give up, but rather to continue to follow the guidelines put in place by health authorities.

“We can feel like we are about to get there and this is the time when we should most not go there,” he said.

City sees increase in complaints

The City of Toronto said on Friday it had received 167 complaints from the public about people breaking the rules in the parks, what it called a “noticeable increase” from the previous weeks.

In a press release on Saturday, the city said law enforcement officers had witnessed “unruly behavior” and a crowd in many popular parks in Toronto, where people were demonstrating public intoxication. and left their dogs without a leash.

Groups gathered in Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday after the City of Toronto began reopening the parks and facilities earlier in the week. (Michael Charles Cole / CBC)

The city said additional officers had been deployed to “problem parks”, including Trinity Bellwoods, which was crowded with groups on Saturday, some of them more than five.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, a Toronto medical officer of health, called the Trinity Bellwoods crowd Saturday “selfish” and “dangerous”.

Edwin Wentworth spent part of Saturday at the park entrance – his first time playing music in public since the start of the pandemic. He said he was able to keep a safe distance from those who listened to him or tipped him.

“There is still a basic level of concern, but I am not very worried,” he said.

As more people ventured outside this week, the number of positive cases increased in Toronto and Ontario, while the province did not meet its screening goal for several days in a row.

Edwin Wentworth plays music in public for the first time since the pandemic at Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday. (Michael Charles Cole / CBC)

De Villa was questioned on Friday about the reopening against the backdrop of rising new cases. She said the imposition of strict foreclosures can have negative health effects, adding that social, economic and health factors are taken into account when deciding how and when to reopen.

“There has always been talk of trying to strike a balance between ensuring that we have the proper protection from COVID-19 and giving people the opportunity to do things like fresh air, exercise and get some freedom, frankly, “De Dit Villa.

But she says it only works if people follow the rules.

Before the weekend, Mayor John Tory said he was not afraid to reassess the reopening of the parks if people did not respect the rules of physical distance and collection.

Over 100 people registered in the parks

Between April 4 and May 21, Toronto police issued 241 tickets to non-essential business people, meeting with more than five people, using closed park equipment and not practicing physical distance.

“It is obvious that we prefer to use education as our first engagement enterprise,” said Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray.

“We don’t want to impose and issue tickets – but we will if we have to. “

The City of Toronto said police and law enforcement officers issued 100 tickets between April 1 and May 21 to people who weren’t specifically distancing themselves from the parks. During the same period, 84 tickets were issued for gatherings of more than five people.

The city said four more tickets were distributed on Friday, and law enforcement officials have warned more than 4,600 people for breaking physical distance rules since the start of May.


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