By Pauline Kerr
We have been living with COVID-19 for six weeks, now, and cracks are starting to show – not necessarily a bad thing.
Initially, we focused on the novelty of using hand sanitizer every time we touched something, working from home and trying to keep the kids amused.
There has been so much to think about – how to maintain some semblance of normality while conducting meetings via computer and refereeing homework sessions. We have been forced to become techno-wizards, teachers and experts in finding different ways of doing everything. If the toilet paper shortage failed to provide enough of a distraction, there were bizarre pronouncements from south of the border about aquarium cleaner, bleach or Lysol being possible cures for COVID.
The novelty has worn off. We realize this is not a brief blip in our normal routines – this is and for the foreseeable future, will be our normal. Long after we edge toward economic recovery, we will be distancing from others, avoiding large gatherings and more.
We have stopped asking when we will be able to get a haircut – the choice is the kitchen scissors or a hat. This is life with COVID-19.
What we used to regard as normal is in the past – some things will likely never return to the way they were before COVID-19. And for that we are grateful.
We have finally realized the state of long-term care in this country is outrageous, and we are asking questions that should have been asked a long time ago. Why are the people who built this country being warehoused in facilities where there are too few staff and constant cutting of financial corners? Why were there failures in such basics as providing staff with personal protective equipment? Why are over half our COVID-19 fatalities in nursing homes? It took a pandemic to show the cracks in the system. Long-term care can never be allowed to go back to the way it was.
Cracks are showing in other areas, too, for example, our homeless shelter system. Crowding people living on the edge of nothing into dormitories is a virtual guarantee of disaster in a COVID-19 environment. For the safety of all of us, our tentative experiments in finding homes for people first and treating addictions and mental illnesses later, have to become the standard. Pre-COVID-19, it was the other way around – cure them, then house them. Not now, and never again.
COVID-19 taught us – and a harsh lesson it was – that we can no longer be so dependent on the global economy. When a nation is in distress, its priority is serving the needs of its own people. International agreements and contracts go out the window. Fortunately, we have discovered that the local business and industrial sector is much more resilient and innovative than we ever thought.
We are so much more than hewers of wood and growers of food. When the hand sanitizer we used to import disappeared from store shelves, local distilleries figured out how to make it, and to their credit, made sure that hospitals, long-term care facilities and homeless shelters were well supplied first. Businesses with 3-D printers started using them to produce protective masks to keep hospital workers safe. Hospital gowns? We have industries that quickly retooled so they could produce them. Bruce Power and its strong supply chain have led the way.
It is that innovative spirit that will see us through the COVID-19 emergency and the recovery period that will follow.
We must all do our part to ensure that we do not revert to pre-COVID-19 complacency. We need to do everything possible to ensure that we become stronger, more resilient and – yes – more compassionate than ever before.
There is great strength in compassion. Caring for our neighbours, looking after each other and making decisions based on the good of our community is how we will survive COVID-19 and how we will be stronger than ever when it is over. That means shopping locally and supporting our community every way we can. We truly are in this together.