Susan D from Ottawa, Canada: Opening up

Encouraging correct physical distancing

2 June: Opening up

Two weeks ago Ontario began to move into the first stage of reopening, which would permit the resuming of construction projects and the reopening of some workplaces, seasonal activities and healthcare settings.  But this was done without the support of the Chief Medical Officer of Health who felt the curve was not falling enough.  One week ago, there was a spike in new cases, blamed on Mother’s Day gatherings and some bad behaviour in parks.  In a popular downtown park in Toronto where city officials said thousands of people ignored physical distancing rules.  The premier said it looked like a rock concert without a band, and that he’s disappointed with everyone who was there. A stern reminder of our civic responsibility to follow the rules.

Following the statistical reports of cases and deaths over the last months has been painful, and makes one want to turn away from it all and read a book or watch a watch a movie.  One statistic has been particularly hard to consider: it has been reported that more than eight of ten Canadian deaths from COVID-19 have been residents of long-term care institutions. In late May the Ontario Premier resorted to making a formal request for assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces to provide some staff relief, and general assistance to support day-to-day operations.  A report was issued by the military that was scathing and shocking: many residences did not provide a proper level of care and the examples cited were hard to read, impossible to accept.  Public response has been loud and emotional, and the government has announced an independent commission to investigate the province’s long-term care system. It has taken an emergency health situation to shine a bright enough light on a situation that has deserved action for some time.  The news makes one ashamed of how vulnerable members of our society are being treated in their latter years.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada is “failing” its elderly. “We shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors,” he said last month. “In the weeks and months to come, we will all have to ask tough questions about how it came to this.”*

As the opening up across the country progresses, the discussion and debate of how soon it is prudent to do what, seems to be overshadowing the daily reporting of cases and deaths, the ups and the downs – the current state of our collective wellbeing.   I find it worrisome to turn one’s attention from the main issue – there is a virus among us that spreads easily before announcing itself in a host and for which there is limited care in many cases, no cure, and no available vaccine yet in sight.  It is natural to want to look for a return to a former life pattern, and to feel comforted by even the possibility of its return, but we cannot let down our guard, especially those of our age group.  I cannot forget the friend who lingered in France as the number of cases rose, and returned home to die. We must remain very careful, very vigilant; to borrow the mantra of those given to strenuous exercise programmes – no pain, no gain.

*The Washington Post

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