Beware the Ides of March. A message from centuries ago but, with due respect to Julius Caesar, perhaps more appropriate today than it was then. COVID-19 has taken over the airwaves and social media. There are very few lives that have not been disrupted because of it. Other events at home and abroad, some of them serious, are taking second seats. There are people who think this is a massive over-reaction. Others, myself included, feel otherwise.
It is true that Canada has not yet been seriously hit with this novel strain of the coronavirus. Leaving China and South Korea out of the equation, Italy as of yesterday has 21,157 cases of COVID-19 resulting in 1,441 deaths. Iran has 13,938 cases with 724 deaths. These numbers are increasing exponentially by the hour. Canada so far has identified only 252 cases of the virus resulting in one death.
But the writing is on the wall and Canada is not immune to this world-wide pandemic. We may have had more warning, we may be better prepared, but the reality is that the effects of the COVID-19 virus are going to be widely felt here and our lives are going to be affected by it for, at least, months to come. Health professionals are predicting that between 30 and 70 per cent of Canadians will contract the virus in some form, but the mortality rate remains relatively low.
We are fortunate, in my view, that all three levels of government in Canada—federal provincial and municipal—are taking this crisis seriously in an effort to minimize its effect. This is not a time for finger pointing or engaging in partisan politics. It is time for everyone, particularly at the political level, to work together and thankfully we are seeing signs of this. Those who do otherwise should really think twice.
I was impressed the other day when former premier Kathleen Wynne, surely no fan of our current premier, defended him when he was criticized for urging families to make the most of the winter break and enjoy themselves.
I thought Premier Ford himself set exactly the right tone when he said, “During times like this we must all work together to take care of one another. Panic buying hurts our seniors, friends and neighbours. Please be considerate of others during these challenging times and remember we are all in this together.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also gets it. Whether you like him or not, he has been on top of this. He is taking the right steps, but he is not overreacting. As a Globe and Mail columnist, who is not always a fan of the prime minister, has said, “Trudeau’s coronavirus response is a lesson in leadership”. We should celebrate that, not denounce it.
This is a time to rise above politics. Hopefully opposition leaders and leadership hopefuls will tone down the rhetoric and, conversely, governments will include some of these people in their discussions and decisions. That is how it should work in times like this. Even Pelosi and Trump are working together! If they can do it, so can we!
This is also a time for the rest of us to show that we really care about each other. As in all things, government can only do so much even in the worst of times. We expect them to do what they need to, but the rest is up to us. A crisis can bring out both the best and the worst in people. We need to make sure we bring out the best.
While it is important to be realistic and prepared during this COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important not to panic or escalate fear. There is absolutely no need for hoarding, and price gouging is unforgivable. We have not yet seen a lot of either of these in Huntsville and I hope we do not. I do know of one store where toilet paper was priced many times higher than the store across the street. There is no excuse for that. Also, let’s tone it down a bit on Facebook and Twitter. We do not always have to be angry and this may well be the time to show our kinder and more positive side.
Of course, we will worry. That is natural. I worry about my daughter-in-law, an acute-care nurse in a large hospital. She is on the front line. But she is calm, and she is prepared, and she is dedicated to helping others. In our own way, in our own situations, we can do the same. We should check on our neighbours. We should keep to our normal grocery shopping habits and we should be ready to give a helping hand to those who need it. Calmness in adversity is an extraordinary asset.
In Huntsville, it is important that we support our local merchants. Our local economy, especially during the tourist season, could well take a hit. We also need to reach out to young people. Schools are closed, programs are cancelled. Kids will be bored. That is where grandparents should come in! Seniors will need more attention, too. Compassion, patience, and understanding should be our motto. Grumpiness and finger pointing should be put on the shelf.
It is also important to the people in Huntsville and in our surrounding communities to know what is happening here, in relation to the COVID- 19 virus: what the local statistics are, what people are saying, what is cancelled, and what is not. For that reason, Huntsville Doppler has created a special COVID-19 page to keep you fully informed. (Click here to read it and keep checking back for updates.)
Finally, through all of this, let’s keep our sense of humour. It is an important part of who we are. I read of some wag recently who suggested that the confinement and lack of activities in the next few months could well result in many new babies in 2021. He suggested that as we labelled Baby Boomers and Millennials, these would be called Coronials!
Who knows? It might produce a future prime minister, whomever she may be!
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