So, how are you managing to handle the COVID-19 pandemic so far?
I would be less than honest if I said I wasn’t getting tired of it, missing more contact with family and friends, and somewhat concerned about what life is going to be like moving forward.
I am not a fan of big government. Never have been. I believe we should control our own lives as much as possible, take responsibility for our own actions, and provide help and understanding to those who cannot help themselves.
Of course, government has a role to play, ensuring our safety, protecting our economy, and fostering a fair society through health care, education, and equality of opportunity. But it is not, in my view, the role of government to be unnecessarily intrusive in our daily lives.
Therefore, when something comes along like a serious recession or the current pandemic, when government and regulators inevitably must play a larger role for the common good, I get nervous. I also watch them like a hawk and believe strongly that these are times for more accountability and oversight, not less.
Coming from that perspective, during these unusual circumstances, I understand the frustration of those people who balk at being told what to do, how to manage their lives, when they can go out, and who they can see.
They believe they should be free to make their own decisions. They resent what they view as government interference and a dilution of their “rights”.
I understand this, but I cannot, on balance, agree with it.
Yes, I am wary about giving government too much power and adamant that it should not be abused when required and that it should be taken back when no longer necessary. This doesn’t always happen. Certainly, we have seen signs of abuse of power and ducking accountability during this current crisis.
But we are in the midst of a pandemic, a potentially deadly disease, prevalent over our entire country and much of the world. It is real. It is not pretend. It is dangerous and it cannot be ignored.
That Canada has, to date, been fortunate in the level of infections and deaths in relation to COVID-19, especially when compared to its next-door neighbour, is not an accident. It is the result of generally sound strategies, largely based on science, and effective co-operation between all three levels of government in this country. That some of these measures are restrictive cannot be helped.
I, for one, do not like wearing a mask. I am mildly claustrophobic, and I find it confining. As well, I find it a little unsettling to be in a bank and seeing someone wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a black mask. I confess to checking out their hands to make sure they have no weapon! Had that been a year ago, I would have been on the floor and the police would have been all over the place!
But I do not find that being required to wear a mask in public establishments or when I am close to other people outside of my immediate circle to be an infringement of my civil rights. A necessary evil perhaps, but necessary all the same.
I wear the mask, not because I like it, but rather because it is the right thing to do for myself and for others. It is unsettling to see people fighting over this and really upsetting when it results in destructive civil disobedience and violence.
As for social distancing, I am actually beginning to like it! It sort of comes naturally to step a few feet away from people I do not know, especially when I am walking. It’s not a big deal. At times, I have to turn up my hearing aids when someone is speaking to me from six feet away, but I can do that!
What I fail to understand is people who crowd parks and beaches with no attention to masks or social distancing. Whatever point they are trying to make is not worth it. As things begin to open up, there is a way to go to parks and beaches and even restaurants and bars in a manner that respects COVID-19 restrictions.
People who flout these rules and just do what they want are only asking for what they really don’t want, and what our struggling economy cannot endure, and that is another lockdown.
Perhaps the toughest decisions governments are going to have to make are still ahead, particularly around when and how schools will open for our young people. There are no easy answers here, and I do not blame officials and politicians for taking their time in an effort to get it right.
Clearly things have to change in this regard, for the foreseeable future. In order to ensure social distancing, teachers should be happy that they will inevitably get the smaller class sizes they have been asking for and there may well be more opportunities for teaching jobs. On the other hand, the pandemic experience has demonstrated that there is an effective role for some online educational experiences and credit courses.
My guess is that we are going to see in the near-term a hybrid solution where schools will open for face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) teaching, with smaller classes and fewer hours. It may be necessary for teachers to have rotating sessions on the same lesson. Remaining required learning time will be spent at home, hopefully online with qualified teachers. But while at home, children need care.
While it has been important during this pandemic to be financially helpful to those who lost jobs and income, it is also my view that there has not been enough emphasis on encouraging people to return safely to work and stimulate the economy.
Many parents who have jobs or can find work (and there are jobs out there) cannot access them if they have to look after children when they cannot be at school. It’s a big deal.
Subsidies to working parents for in-home child-care not only gets these moms and dads back in the workforce but it also provides opportunities for child-care workers. A win-win situation and certainly better, in my view, than paying people to stay home.
One thing that is becoming clear to me is that while the economy is slowly being reopened and while we are going through phases of returning to a near-normal life, we are certainly not yet out of the woods. We are still a long way from an effective COVID-19 vaccine, and we do not yet know what escalating effect the virus will have as the necessary process of opening up continues.
That is why it is important to stay vigilant, patient, and compliant with reasonable, science-based requirements. There are still tough and challenging times ahead.
Stay Calm and Carry On is a well-used maxim from World War Two. It is also appropriate now. Like then, we will get through this. Let’s not use the pandemic to tear the place apart while we are waiting.
Image: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay
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