We are now nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic. So how are we doing? How are YOU doing? Certainly, life is very different and for some it has become extremely difficult and at times tragic in terms of both health and financial survival.
Nevertheless, as time goes on we have, generally speaking, survived lockdowns, new rules of social behaviour, and in many instances new ways of doing things. Most Canadians have accepted the reality of a worldwide pandemic and adapted to the new normal and accepted extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. Some, however, have not.
As the pandemic continues, with no real light at the end of the tunnel, it is understandable that people are getting fatigued and frustrated. Some wonder how serious and abnormal the pandemic really is and question the need for many of the measures that have been taken to control it.
Others believe not nearly enough has been done, and that controlling the virus matters much more than the economy or individual rights or almost anything else for that matter. The answer, as it usually does, lies somewhere in the middle.
And then there is the blame game. The more impatient we get with the way things are, the more we like to point fingers and seldom do we point them at ourselves. We need a straw man and the easy targets, of course, are the politicians. They haven’t done enough, or what they have done is too restrictive, or they don’t know what they are doing, or they are listening to the wrong so-called experts, and so on. They may not have caused the virus but they sure aren’t doing enough to fix it. We see these armchair critics every day in social and mainstream media.
But let’s look at the statistics, because it seems to me when you recognize the reality of the pandemic and compare the current numbers related to COVID-19 in Canada in general, and in Ontario in particular, with other jurisdictions, we are doing pretty well under difficult circumstances.
Canada to date has identified 196,000 COVID-19 infections. The United States has identified 8.4 million infections. On a per capita basis, the rate of infection in the United States is more than double the rate of infection in Canada.
There have been 219,000 reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. and 9,746 in Canada. Again, on a per capita basis, Canada’s death rate from the virus is well less than half of that of the United States. Similar statistics both in infection and death rates in the United Kingdom and many other G20 countries are favourable to Canada on a per capita basis.
The population of Ontario is about one-third greater than the population of Quebec. Yet Quebec has had 93,391 COVID-19 related infections, including 6,038 deaths compared to Ontario’s 64,371 COVID-19 infections and 3,046 deaths. As an aside, but of interest given concerns about the influx of tourists and seasonal residents in Muskoka during the pandemic, Muskoka has had 71 reported COVID-19 infections since February, 20 of those in Huntsville.
There is at present no cure and no vaccine for COVID-19. Management of the virus is currently the only alternative and on a comparable basis both the Canadian and Ontario Governments appear to be doing a pretty good job.
In Ottawa, the Trudeau Government has run up the largest pandemic deficit of any G20 government. Many will criticize this, but the comparative results against its peers for managing the pandemic speak for themselves.
Certainly, one can question the manner in which COVID-19 contracts were awarded without disclosure or tender, especially when evidence exists that the Trudeau Government likes to reward its friends. But one cannot, or should not, question the Trudeau Government for stepping up to the plate in providing the financial and economic tools required by those most affected by the pandemic, including provincial governments upon whose shoulders the actual management of most COVID-19 issues rests.
In Ontario, the Ford Government has had to walk the fine line between allowing our economy to re-open and keeping the curve of the COVID-19 virus as low as possible. Some blame his actions, especially around those of school and leisure activity openings, for the rise in virus infections we are currently experiencing, but a second wave was anticipated and is occurring across Canada and worldwide.
Again, it is a question of management and again the comparable statistics for COVID-19 infections and deaths in Ontario, speak for themselves.
I do think, however, that Premier Ford should be more forthcoming about who his “panel of health care experts” are, from whom he takes advice. Most likely he wants to spare them from media, political, and armchair critics. However, if members of the public knew who these people were, my guess is they would have more confidence that the premier was finding the right balance between public safety and the necessity of getting on with life.
The Ford Government has also been criticized for having no plan to address the anticipated increase in COVID-19 infections but that is not entirely accurate. In recent weeks alone, aided by necessary Federal Government financial assistance, the Ontario Government has employed more nurses and personal care workers, especially for nursing homes. They have also initiated the largest flu shot campaign in the history of Ontario and significantly expanded laboratory capacity, testing, and contact tracing throughout the province.
As for school re-openings and classroom sizes, those who are blaming these on the increase in COVID-19 infections are wrong, at least so far. The Toronto District School Board is the largest school board in Canada. In the six weeks schools have been opened in Ontario, 151 out of 247,000 students have tested positive for the virus, an average of 0.086 per cent of students attending school in class. In Huntsville, I have noticed that young people outside of school are largely not following any pandemic protocol and that, to me, is a real concern and potential problem.
In my view, governments and affected public agencies in Canada are doing what they can to control the COVID-19 virus in a manner that also allows our economy to recover and people to get on with their lives, as well they must. They are not the problem. As I have often said, government cannot and should not be all things to all people. A lot of it comes down to us, our behaviour, our attitude, and our resolve.
Scientists and other experts throughout the world, including those in Canada, have been very clear about what needs to be done to control and reduce the coronavirus. It is really quite simple. Wear masks. Wash your hands frequently and maintain reasonable social distancing.
Where people refuse to do that; where large crowds have gathered, where masks are not worn and social distancing is not respected, COVID-19 infections spike and everyone is put at risk. Where these simple rules are largely respected, the curve is limited and the risk of infection greatly reduced. What is so complicated about that?
Years ago, there was a well-read comic strip called Pogo, which some of you may remember. The title character was a reptile of some kind, I think perhaps an alligator. In any event, it was Pogo who famously said, “I have found the enemy and it is us.”
When it comes to the coronavirus, we need to seriously think about that.
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