Note 1: This is not about the U.S. election.
Note 2: For every 100 scary headlines about positive COVID tests there should be at least one appeal for calm.
Recent computer models predicted thousands of new COVID cases each day and even though that didn’t happen Premier Ford shut down restaurants and competitive sports again. Schools felt like detention centres.
The result was that real people in the real world put on masks and stood apart, even outside when it was unnecessary, to avoid societal melt down. Everybody played along to get along.
But it can all go sideways. If a child sniffles once in class, the teacher can send the boy home along with his two sisters. A parent must then drive to school, pick them up and the entire family has to get tested and stay home for two days until the results are in.
At home, parents have warned their children that if they dare sniffle or mention a tummy ache in class they won’t see dessert until February.
Then there’s the child who really does have a sniffle in the morning and wants to go to school.
“But Dad, I’m fine, really. I have a test today.”
“Billy, you’re staying home. If Mrs. Winter hears you sneeze we’ll all have to go to the COVID-19 clinic.”
These scenarios are happening because people know that we are not seeing healthy children dying or getting sick from COVID-19. Statistics bear this out. There have only been two COVID-19 deaths under age 20 in all of Canada and, even though I’ve inquired, Health Canada can’t tell me if either of those cases included a healthy child with no serious underlying health conditions.
A child is more likely to drown or die in a vehicle accident than die from COVID-19 but we are not banning swimming pools and vehicles because there is always some level of risk we are willing to accept. People know this and just want to live their lives. “But the second wave is coming,” Lanark County crop farm John Vanderspank was told. He shot back: “When was the first wave?”
There are many reasons to take necessary precautions and, at the same time, not be fearful. There is eight times more COVID-19 testing now than at the height of the spring lockdown. So, with eight times more testing we get more positive tests, making it easier to protect the vulnerable. We should also be delighted that in the vast majority of cases we now know COVID is no worse than the common flu and that in most cases there are no or few symptoms. The death curve has also flattened since July.
There is more good news. The initial lockdown was to ensure we would have enough ventilators for those suffering from COVID. We didn’t need them all and now we have so many unused ventilators that we’ll need buildings to store them. Then last month the World Health Organization announced that ongoing lockdowns don’t work. They just buy you time initially to organize.
So, we don’t need to live in fear of the virus and healthy people should be allowed back to school and to work.
Except that’s not always happening. Each positive test is still being treated like a fatality and every argument for easing restrictions is rebutted with: “We have to protect the vulnerable.” Of course we have to protect the vulnerable. Seriously, is anybody saying the vulnerable should not be protected? We know who they are. The vulnerable can isolate. The rest of us need not visit them or should take precautions around them.
Sadly, widespread restrictions have actually increased the vulnerable. The vulnerable are no longer only those who are very sick or elderly. The new vulnerable are healthy people stressed by the restrictions we introduced to protect the vulnerable. The new vulnerable are stressed by having lost a job or a business (The number of self-employed Canadians dropped 13 per cent from February to May) or who can’t get medical treatment because that was shut down too. Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.
Many people are now at risk of increased drug and alcohol abuse, violence and suicide. In an article on the psychological toll of the pandemic restrictions, a National Post reporter writes that, according to a University of Regina study, about 15 per cent of Canadians might become “functionally impaired” as a result of COVID-related stress. We are now learning that about 25 per cent of adults are engaged in heavy episodic drinking.
A Morneau Shepell human resources study found that after 200 days of restrictions the country is emotionally exhausted. An Angus Reid poll found that those suffering from loneliness and isolation increased by 10 per cent to 33 per cent this year.
In late October, Dr. Ari Joffe, at the University of Alberta hospital’s department of pediatrics, published a report arguing that lockdowns are not the answer and that school closures do not have an impact on community outbreaks. Open the schools, he said.
Protect the new vulnerable, ease restrictions, ensure safety measures, and remain calm.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at