By Pauline Kerr
The scandal over top-ranking political and health-care officials taking Christmas vacations in the sunny south has had at least one unexpected consequence.
It has made us look at our own behaviour and that of those close to us.
There is an old saying, that when you point a finger at someone else, you have three more pointing at yourself. Yes, we were outraged at the nerve of these people who told us to stay home and forgo visits with friends and family, while they themselves were hopping on planes and heading to some tropical paradise.
At the same time, there was a bit of soul searching going on. How many of us have neglected to put on a mask in one of those grey area situations? How many of us have visited a friend in violation of the COVID rules or gone places when we should have stayed home? Perhaps we grew weary of a child’s whining and allowed her to have a friend over to play. Or perhaps we grew weary of our own whining and spent an expensive afternoon at a busy big box store.
The appearance of the COVID-19 vaccines about the same time as the holidays seems to have created a false sense of confidence. But in the words of the legendary Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” It is as true of pandemics as it is of baseball games.
The idea right now must be to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive until we can get vaccinated. With the arrival of more contagious strains of the virus, we cannot take chances.
That said, we can also understand the growing frustration with what appear to be inequities with the COVID-19 response.
A major source of frustration is the way small businesses are being treated. Most of us no longer buy the argument that only large chain stores like Walmart and Costco have the resources to implement protective measures to stay open while small, local businesses can provide only curbside and delivery service.
Local shops have provided excellent and safe service during times when lockdowns were not in effect. They followed the rules.
All levels of government have been quick to provide assorted grants and loans to keep them afloat during closures, when what the owners of local shops want is to be open for business. Meanwhile, the big box stores benefit from the unfair lack of competition.
Even with government assistance, there are business owners who will make the difficult decision to close their doors permanently.
There is more to running a small business than a ledger sheet – developing and nurturing relationships with clients and customers as well as suppliers and other businesses and services, working on community projects with other businesses, and much more. The current lockdown was imposed just when many were getting back on their feet after the first one, and for some, there is no energy to rebuild a second time.
The sad part is that health officials were quite clear in saying the reason for the spike in COVID-19 cases was private gatherings. People were not catching or transmitting the virus at shops, schools or factories, but in their own homes and the homes of friends.
We realize not all provincial or federal decisions have been good ones, or proved good for everyone. Pandemics, and the decisions to combat them, happen in real time, with no instant replay option.
Not every family has good computers and internet access, or a parent who can stay home to supervise kitchen table “school.”
Not every home has space where a person exposed to COVID-19 can isolate from the rest of the family.
Not every person can work from home and have groceries delivered.
Those who can, owe it to the rest of the community to do everything possible to limit the spread of COVID-19 until everyone can be vaccinated. For the sake of those who live and/or work in high-risk situations, masks, distancing and hand-washing are not optional – they are vital.