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Inside out

Jody Vance: the second wave is coming. If we’re going to ask people with no outdoor space to keep safe, we need better options than Zoom and walks around the block.
Dinner reservations, winter 2020

Since day one of the pandemic, health officials have pleaded with us to keep your indoor space for your family bubble alone. Even in winter, the majority of our socializing should be happening in the safest possible place: outside.

Staring down the chill of the coming six months, with no snowbird escape south (without a two week quarantine upon return), folks are clamouring for creativity in preparation for dark and rainy days.

Priority one: stay socially connected while staying safely — apart — outside.

Suddenly, plans have to include things like tents without walls, and long tables with plenty of room to keep at least two metres apart. Finding or providing places to be safely together outside will be serious currency, not to mention vital in keeping healthy social connections during the coming cold, dark, and dreary time of year.

It’s safe to say this same thought will occur to others. There will be, once again, a rush on certain things. Purchasing outdoor gear and items that might winterize outdoor spaces is the new toilet paper.

So if (for example) snowshoeing or cross-country skiing interest you, try and find gear right now. There’s also a run on warm, snow and/or rain-resistant clothing you might usually reserve for trips to the hills. Gore Tex and down are the new black tie or business casual for 2020 outside-the-bubble holiday gatherings.

If we come at this new normal, with holiday season on deck, and embrace some creative cold-weather COVID-safe socializing – it might just be fun. We may as well make the best of it; there’s no avoiding this next phase.

This weekend we set up a makeshift tent on our tiny patio. It got me thinking of people who don’t have any outdoor space.

The Middle literally on the table here is for municipal and provincial leaders: step up and create spaces for people of all walks to take advantage of. Build teams with a mandate to make spaces for free outdoor winter socializing, arm them with the power of permitting and freedom to create without red tape.

Because people renting tiny homes, or live on the 40th floor with no outside access, need a place to safely see family and friends outdoors. With a bit of creativity and expertise, we can make it happen – and quickly.

Give priority access to those who have no outdoor space where they live and offer up public spaces and parks.

When the politics of this snap election ends, perhaps the provincial government could partner with municipalities to make this work. Access the expertise of event companies, pay them to help invent COVID-safe spaces, rent their solid semi-permanent tents and install them for public access.

Who’s going to do this, you ask? Why not offer work to laid-off hospitality workers who already know what they’re doing?

For families and friendship groups, being able to use public and green spaces – legally and within public health guidelines – for a regular meal or celebration, it would be priceless.

Winter is coming, and we need options beyond walks around the block. If we’re going to ask people to be safe and stay sane at the same time, it’s a good investment to make safe outdoor interactions easier and more accessible. Let’s get busy being creative, outside.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.


  • Last week, Jody Vance pondered how, exactly, we're supposed to put politics behind us during a snap election.
  • UnSpun's new format saw Jody hosting Vancouver City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung to talk women in politics, Vancouver's various issues, and that whole pandemic snap election thing.
  • Back in May, Maclean Kay pined for wide open spaces, and pleaded with the Province to please re-open provincial parks.