By Pauline Kerr
The minute we saw the photos of the crowds gathered in Toronto malls at Easter, we knew we were headed for another stay-at-home order. While the province’s “emergency brake” may have been enough to catch the attention of most Ontarians, it was not going to do anything to reduce growing numbers in “hot spots.”
Now, because some of the kids acted up, the whole class ends up with a detention. Stay home. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect $200.
Unlike the previous two lockdowns, this one feels somewhat punitive and unfair. A number of our local businesses that have somehow managed to keep their heads above water until now will not survive this round. Despite government grants, loans and emergency payouts, homes will be lost. The moratorium on evictions is nothing more than a temporary reprieve, at the end of which the ranks of the homeless will grow.
And the reason? People refused to heed health warnings and went to the mall.
Of course, the situation is far more complicated than that. Provincial and health authorities are in the uncomfortable position of fighting a deadly battle on two fronts. They are trying to implement damage control measures while getting as many people vaccinated as fast as possible.
Damage control is far from easy when the enemy is changing constantly and becoming more dangerous. The mutated versions of the novel coronavirus, known as variants, appear to be considerably more contagious than the original, prompting some health authorities to suggest wearing masks when doing outdoor activities as well as indoor ones – not good news to people who were already annoyed at wearing masks in grocery stores.
The variants also appear to affect young people more than the original virus did. The younger folk who have blissfully ignored public health orders on the grounds that even if they caught the virus, it would be no worse than a case of the sniffles, are being told that is no longer true, and they must change their behaviour. But it is spring, a time for gathering with others their age and celebrating the long evenings and sunshine. Isolating themselves goes against a million years of evolution.
Health authorities are revising their vaccination program. It made sense initially to focus on elderly people in nursing homes. These were the people most at risk of ending up in hospital with complications from the virus. The most vulnerable have now been vaccinated, and attention must turn to where the virus is likely to do the most damage.
That is turning out to be such places as university residences, factories, and neighbourhoods where homes are small and crowded – and where workers cannot afford to stay home from work if they feel sick.
So far, in the race between vaccines and the COVID-19 variants, the virus has been winning. The early and rapid deployment of vaccines failed to happen due to factors beyond Canada’s control, and the variants got a solid foothold.
It is easy to say this country must step up its own vaccine-production capabilities to prevent a future mess like the one we are now in. While true, it is of little consolation to people who are having surgeries cancelled because ICUs are filled to capacity with COVID-19 patients, to those who continue to lose beloved family members to this virus, and even to those who whose careers are evaporating in the face of the most recent lockdown.
We are seeing numbers that reflect both the new variants’ contagious nature, and the fact a lot of people got together with friends and family at Easter.
The best thing we can do now is get over any lingering “vaccine hesitancy.” This is one situation where we must be part of the solution or we really will be part of the problem.
We need to avoid contact with people outside our household, too. We know how; this is not our first walk around the block – delivery, curbside pickup, essential shopping only, and Zoom. We can do it!