No need to sugar-coat COVID realities

Ontario’s response to COVID-19 has, at times, seemed restrictive, other times appropriate, still other times too lenient. Overall, there seems to be a lack of information and a lack of evidence-based decision-making leading to questionable pronouncements benefitting certain stakeholders, while those preaching the rules feel that they are above them.

Let’s start with the fact that the province was locked down, but decided that Northern Ontario children should return to classes after the holidays amid exponential cases being reported. Southern Ontario children were told to stay home.

I decided the best I could do was to keep my teens home from high school, as well as writing to a number of decision-makers to encourage them to reinforce the fact that the health of northern communities is as important as that of southern Ontario communities.

I was thrilled to see that Algoma Public Health’s medical officer of health and CEO, Dr. Jennifer Loo, did indeed keep high school students home, but elementary attendance was based on the parents’ discretion. It was also good that now mask wearing was lowered to include grades one and two as well.

Given the infection rates in the teenage group is sharply on the rise, we can’t trust that our hormone-filled teens have been social distancing outside of school. (Instagram and SnapChat stories will show you they haven’t.) I have also seen many teens who still think a face mask is a chin warmer.

Until cases locally are under control, it makes no sense to send back high school students unless they come up with safe new measures for them to socially distance themselves at lunch and be supervised doing so. The idea that students are eating in classrooms, without masks, without supervision, told to keep their distance, is like putting monkeys in a cage and telling them not to eat the bananas on the floor.

After these lunch breaks, with masks off in the classrooms, there is also no time for the deep cleaning that should occur. Until the policies and procedures are in place, it’s the Wild West in our high schools and this is not safe for the vulnerable members of our community.

The next most frustrating issue is around the treatment of small business. There are many memes circling social media questioning whether the lockdown simply means you can’t shop at small businesses. There is definitely some truth to the concerns that stores such as Walmart are getting a hall pass to sell more than essentials, which is not just.

The backbone of Canada’s GDP is small business. They need help right now, and I hear there is a new small business grant available, that might help businesses bolster for a couple months, maybe even get them e-commerce ready. I understand that enforcement will be more difficult if small businesses are open, as it is easier to check a handful of box stores than to do the rounds of hundreds of small businesses, but our community is made strong by its small businesses. There are only so many ways I can support them during this current lockdown, from buying gift cards, ordering take-out, and making extra calls to find out about curbside possibilities.

Next, we have to address travel. We knew people would travel at Christmas unless there was a travel ban or curfew. They did travel and brought us gifts of exponential infection rates. In a month, our cases doubled, and Monday our first death attributable to COVID-19 sadly occurred. Yet, we had politicians and healthcare leaders telling us to stay home while they themselves travelled. It is beyond frustrating.

In a nutshell, if we are supposed to trust that all students will socially distance and wear masks properly, and that the schools will deep clean appropriately, why can’t we also assume that our small businesses will do the same? If we are going to let people travel from hot spot regions to other regions, we best be prepared for more spikes in our numbers.

Scare us if you have to. Release more information about the projections, and the contract tracing of our local cases. Give us restrictions and allowances based on evidence, and practise what you preach.

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