By Pauline Kerr
Just when we thought it was safe to venture into public places again … Surprise!
COVID-19 numbers are surging, making some municipalities think they may have been a bit premature in ending states of emergency, and the province got ahead of itself in announcing the timeline for a gradual lifting of health measures.
The experts said it was time to shift gears to reflect high vaccination rates, low COVID numbers at least in this province, and an environment that, while still abnormal, was more normal than it had been for well over a year.
And shift gears we did. International travel resumed, snowbirds prepared for their annual migration south and kids went back at school. Even better, we could visit restaurants and go watch hockey games live. Meetings did not necessarily mean Zoom.
People knew – or should have known – that COVID was still around but what had been ear-shattering feedback had faded to slightly annoying background noise that did not drown out any non-COVID conversation.
Municipalities had stopped operating in a state of organized paranoia. It was time to reflect this by ending the state of emergency. The point was made repeatedly that it could be reinstated if necessary, and would actually have more impact.
There was nothing wrong with ending the state of emergency – except the recent spike in COVID numbers. Now there are worries municipalities and the province may have sent a dangerous message by easing off on COVID rules too soon.
Of course, there are other factors at play – the virulence of the delta variant being one. That version of the virus is horribly adept at seeking out and infecting unvaccinated people.
Then there is the declining effectiveness of the vaccine, especially among older people who were among those first vaccinated. As we were warned, a couple of shots of COVID vaccine does not provide lifetime immunity. Boosters are needed.
A major factor is the season of the year. Coronaviruses including the common cold and flu, as well as COVID, spread best in the colder months, when people spend a lot more time indoors.
We have to realize that lifting the state of emergency is not the same as saying the pandemic is over, just that it has reached a stage where we can live a fairly normal life if we want to.
Even those of us who are fortunate enough to be in an area where COVID rates are still low must exercise caution and let common sense be our guide when it comes to such things as distancing and wearing masks.
The big danger is not violating whatever the province’s and municipality’s current rules are, but in leaving oneself vulnerable to a deadly virus.
We cannot afford to read anything extra into lifting a state of emergency. It does not mean pitch the masks in the trash bin, leave your proof of vaccination at home and run around hugging everyone in sight. The province’s health rules still apply and will continue to do so as long as they are needed. Taking too many risks involving COVID-19 guarantees the rules will be needed for much longer than necessary.
Providing families with the opportunity to get their children vaccinated and older adults with the chance for a booster shot will help limit the negative impact of COVID. So will the measures that kept us safe before the vaccine was available. We all know what they are – masks, hand washing, distancing, avoiding crowds and staying away from sick people.
We can consider ourselves truly fortunate we have not had to deal with three states of emergency in one year, like the people in British Columbia – forest fires, COVID and now catastrophic flooding. Unlike them, we have the opportunity to live a relatively normal life, as long as we take a few simple precautions.
Wearing a mask and getting vaccinated seem minor prices to pay for the opportunity to dine in restaurants, shop in well-stocked grocery stores and enjoy relative safety.