By Pauline Kerr
We have been getting a lot of mixed messages about COVID lately.
Prior to Easter, we were being advised on measures we should take to avoid contracting COVID – masking when indoors, frequent use of hand sanitizer, avoiding crowds, gathering outside if at all possible.
At the same time, the province was making it clear that there was no move to re-impose mask orders or other measures. We were assured that since so many people have been vaccinated with three and four doses, and medications are now available to reduce the chances of developing severe illness if someone does contract COVID, there is no need for restrictions.
And then there were the news items about classes and schools closing temporarily because of high absentee rates. The latter are also affecting hospitals and other facilities.
We are being told we are in the midst of a sixth wave, but it may already have peaked. How this can be determined is somewhat of a mystery to the average person, since no one seems to be keeping track of COVID infections, except possibly the ones that land people in hospital.
What we want to hear are reassurances we can believe. Problems arise when we get two or more sets of reassurances that provide different messages.
Relying on one’s own common sense does not seem to be a viable option in our society any more – for information to be valid; it must include studies and expert opinions. But what happens when experts disagree?
Journalists have a saying: consider the source. All expert opinions are not created equal. Common sense would indicate a medical opinion stated by a medical professional should likely carry more weight than, say, a medical opinion put forward by a television actor.
What it means is, there are times and situations where we have to think for ourselves. This stage of the pandemic is one of them.
Government officials are considering a range of factors, not the least of which is the provincial election lurking just around the corner. Any attempt to re-impose restrictions at this point would, without a doubt, be resisted loudly and with possible violence. The last thing anyone wants right now are fist fights in grocery store aisles over mask-wearing, flag-bedecked pickup trucks honking through town at all hours, and restrictions that are impossible to enforce.
Government officials are quite correct in saying the time for restrictions is past; we have to focus on recovering from the pandemic.
This is not to say medical officials are wrong. COVID is still with us and will be for some time. It remains a dangerous disease.
This is one situation where both sides have important messages to relay. Recovery from the pandemic is important, but we need not sacrifice our safety to ensure it happens.
We have masks and know they prevent transmission of disease, as do hand washing and staying home when sick. Even if COVID were to disappear tomorrow – which it shows no sign of doing – masks, hand washing and staying home would prevent the spread of flu, the common cold, and various other illnesses.
There is no better time to for employers to implement sick leave benefits if they have not already done so, than right now.
Postponing huge family and community events until warmer weather allows them to take place outside, would probably be wise. We know COVID eases off in hot weather.
Provincial and medical authorities are asking us to use our common sense and do what is right for ourselves, our families and our communities.
Conflicting advice from the experts does not mean dispense with all of it and listen to the guy on Facebook who presents an impassioned plea for tin foil hats as a COVID preventative. It means doing what seems sensible.
For most of us, that includes a COVID booster when we become eligible, and using the tools with which we have become very familiar over the past couple of years. For a few, who have health conditions that make COVID especially dangerous, it means staying away from crowds. Common sense must rule.