When it got sold a few months ago, I actually thought the Toronto Star might move more toward the centre and become less of a propaganda sheet for the political left. I guess with former Premier David Peterson appointed as the Star’s new vice chair, I should have known better. But I had high hopes.
On Friday, the Toronto Star led with a bold headline that read “This is Ontario’s lose-lose approach to the pandemic.” Immediately above the headline were mug shots of Health Minister Christine Elliott, Premier Doug Ford, and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams. They are the bad guys.
The good guys are anyone the Toronto Star can find to support their campaign to discredit the Ford Government and the health experts they rely on when it comes to their management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Star article goes on to do just that, basically claiming they know better than the Government about how to handle the current crisis. No surprise there, I guess.
Then there is the newly minted leader of the Ontario Liberals, Steven Del Duca. Frankly, I liked his predecessor better. Del Duca basically accused Doug Ford of murder. He says, “Doug Ford failed us. His lies and betrayals will continue to cost lives.” His NDP opposition counterpart, Andrea Horwath, spouts much of the same drivel.
Okay folks, it is time to cut out the inflammatory rhetoric and the nastiness. It feeds bitterness, anger, resentment, and depression. To top it off, it is factually inaccurate, and has the potential of doing much more harm than any government can do.
No government at any of the federal, provincial, or local levels will endure this pandemic without making mistakes. In addition, not all scientists will agree with each other about the best way to deal with it. There is no definitive text book on how to effectively manage COVID-19. There are no perfect answers. All we can expect from those who bear the heavy weight of responsibility during the pandemic is that they do their best. A campaign of ‘my guys know better than your guys’ accomplishes nothing.
There are really three elements involved in managing a pandemic. Of course, controlling the curve of the virus and keeping people as safe as possible is vital. Although many choose to ignore it, balancing this with protecting our economy is also of singular importance. Without economic survival we cannot thrive and, importantly, we cannot care for those who genuinely need caring for. And finally, there is the whole issue of mental health, especially depression, which in itself at this stage in the pandemic is raising its head as a major crisis. For governments of all stripes, all of this is a high-wire act, with more than just one ball in the air.
We are well into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was anticipated and it was predicted to be worse than the first stage. All of that has come to be, not just here but, with few exceptions, world-wide.
The good news, if there is any, is that we are better prepared for it. The bad news is that many people are not doing what needs to be done in order to control and reduce this virulent virus. Many are becoming impatient and frustrated, others just plain stubborn about what they consider to be their ‘rights’.
COVID-19 infections are soaring and the hard facts are that this is much more a factor of people not wearing masks, social distancing, and following other required protocols than it is about anything which a government can do.
Even in Huntsville, where to date we have recorded less than 30 COVID-19 infections, I marvel at young kids leaving school in packs and with few masks, as if life has not changed in any way. I had one call about a class of about 25 on an outing, walking closely together without masks, even the teacher! I shake my head. Surely, this can only lead to trouble.
Those who believe that masks and distancing don’t matter in controlling this virus just need to look at two recent and specific events in the United States. The first was when about two hundred people gathered in the Rose Garden at the White House to witness the swearing in of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice. The second one was also at the White House, when about the same number assembled to watch the election returns.
In both cases, very few masks and almost no distancing. Also in both cases, a very high level of proven infections. It’s a simple equation. No masks, no distancing, equals real risk of infection to you and to others.
Premier Doug Ford has said recently, we are “staring down the barrel of another lockdown” if COVID-19 protocols are not followed. If virus infections continue to soar, that may be inevitable as a last resort. But it would also be close to a disaster.
Many small businesses that barely survived the first lockdown would be wiped out by the second one, and the long-term financial impact on families and individuals severe. Parents of young children already overburdened between caring for their families and holding down jobs will be at their breaking point. Schools and recreational services may have to close again. Depression will become more rampant, with serious consequences, putting more pressure on an already fragile health care system. Frustration and anger could well rise to the level of civil disobedience. No amount of government money (your tax dollars) can reverse this.
Clearly, it is up to us. We need to wear masks when we are close to anyone outside of our homes. We need to social distance and avoid crowds. We need to know who we are associating with and keep our gatherings small. Most scientists agree these are the keys to reducing and controlling the COVID-19 virus. If we simply follow the COVID-19 protocols and encourage others to do so, we can avoid another complete lockdown.
As for our elected officials, if there was ever a time for politicians to work together, this is it. In Ontario, an election is more than a year and a half away. There will be plenty of time for partisan politics then, but not now. And yes, in terms of controlling the pandemic, I feel the same way about partisan politics at the federal level.
Passing the buck, pointing fingers, and employing scare tactics by ourselves, politicians, or indeed the media are not a formula for any kind of meaningful pandemic recovery. Rather, a united front in encouraging people to take responsibility for the safety of themselves and others by following COVID protocols, along with a combined determination to demonstrate compassion, common sense, hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel is what is desperately needed right now.
We all have an important part to play in this. Otherwise, it will get very nasty and we cannot allow that.
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