Even under normal circumstances, mid-winter is a not the best time for me. I miss the sunshine and I miss the warmth. The COVID-19 pandemic, especially after more than a year of it, makes it only more difficult and Muskoka going back into lockdown makes it almost impossible.
I’ll suck it up of course and carry on just like most people will. And I certainly know I am far from alone. But I am going to stop pretending that all of this does not affect me, and that the lockdown doesn’t bother me.
I will continue to worry about people, especially my family and frontline workers (one of whom is my daughter-in-law), and individuals and small businesses who are struggling financially to stay afloat through this devastating pandemic, to say nothing about the frightening economic challenges that lie ahead for us. And still, I will continue to look for that light at the end of the tunnel, which on some days seems elusive.
I now understand why some people are getting angry, even as I strongly disagree with civil disobedience and disrespectful behaviour. I admit to feeling a degree of anger myself, on Friday, when it was announced that Muskoka was going back into lockdown after less than two weeks of reprieve.
I do not blame the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for this, nor do I blame the provincial government. They have their job to do, which is to control the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, to the degree possible. According to the health unit, in Simcoe County and Muskoka we are experiencing a surge in cases of the B.1.1.7 (the UK) variant of COVID-19, the largest number of instances for this variant in the entire province. There was really no choice here.
I do blame, however, those individuals and businesses that are not taking this pandemic seriously. I just don’t understand people who refuse to wear masks, social distance, or avoid crowds. It just takes one to start the domino effect when it comes to spreading COVID-19.
At least one of the reasons Muskoka is in lockdown is that McDonald’s, both in Huntsville and Bracebridge, have been transporting employees from Barrie, a bedroom community for Toronto, where there has been a high instance of COVID-19 infections. This has been responsible for positive tests at McDonald’s in both towns. I don’t know if other businesses are doing this as well, but there is no excuse for it, especially during a pandemic. I know personally of one family whose son, a Huntsville resident, works at McDonald’s and tested positive for COVID-19. Subsequently, both his parents were infected, one of them seriously.
What is particularly galling to me is that now that we are locked down, McDonald’s is permitted to continue to operate through its drive-through, while dozens of restaurants cannot survive on take-out and some small businesses are forced to completely shut down with a real risk of not surviving. I have not even heard of a fine or other serious consequences for McDonald’s.
Meanwhile, small businesses in Huntsville and Port Sydney have been heavily fined by the health unit for less serious issues, such as inadequate paperwork, for which a warning may well have sufficed.
There is something very wrong with this picture. While serious measures are required to control the spread of COVID-19, it is incumbent on the Ford Government to ensure that these restrictions are applied equally and fairly, most importantly as they affect the economically vulnerable.
I have also been critical of the Trudeau Government for its poor performance to date, compared to most other countries, in actually getting vaccines here on the ground and into people’s arms. It is a matter of record and it is a disturbing one. But what’s done is done. There are signs now that more vaccines are available, and more are coming to Canada. That is good news.
Back in the day, when I told my father good news about school he would say something like, “That’s nice, but let’s wait to see the report card before we get too excited.” That is what we badly need here. We need to see actual results. We need to see the federal government get those vaccines rolling. The current rate of two per cent is way behind the eight ball.
Ontario cannot put vaccines they do not have in people’s arms. On the other hand, Ontario had better be ready with effective infrastructure and qualified personnel to quickly and efficiently inoculate their citizens throughout the province when sufficient vaccines are available. No one will tolerate stockpiled vaccines at either the federal or provincial levels.
The reality is that until much of our population is vaccinated, COVID-19 and its variants are going to continue to be a problem. If that means more lockdowns, so be it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can blame the feds. We can blame the province. It’s easy to find fault in others, especially when there is some to be found. But at the end of the day, much of the real responsibility rests with us. Only we can spread this virus.
That is why masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, the whole nine yards, continues to be very important. Patience, empathy, and tolerance of restrictions are also necessary even though some of these can wear very thin at times. I know they do for me.
The important thing, though, is to keep our eyes on the goal posts. They really are getting closer and there really is light at the end of the tunnel! We just need to work a little harder to score that goal!
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