By Pauline Kerr
There are usually several ways to look at anything. The recent massive lineups at area assessment centres is an excellent example.
While this area escaped the worst of the mess (there were only a few days when numbers exceeded the centres’ ability to easily handle the demand for testing), other communities were not so fortunate.
To some, it was a sign the long-feared second wave had arrived. Others shrugged off the situation as nothing more than people panicking.
To a frustrated parent of a not-terribly-sick child, the lineups were a clear indicator schools were sending home too many children. To the sick people in the line, and those standing near them, waiting for hours was nothing less than cruel and probably dangerous.
There are as many ways of looking at a situation as there are people; we tend to see contentious issues and alarming situations from a highly personal point of view.
A good example was what happened at Thanksgiving. Provincial authorities told us to limit our celebratory dinner to those in our immediate household. At the same time, bars remained open, as did restaurants and even casinos.
A lot of people found the optics of that situation disturbing and failed to buy the message that these businesses follow health protocols but individual families may not. Was it mixed messaging or an indicator that economic concerns euchre health issues? As with most things, reality is usually somewhere in the middle. In this case, there was a clear desire on the part of the authorities to limit all public gatherings to prevent a deadly spike in numbers. There was also a clear desire to keep businesses open.
While we would like to think our leaders, both political and medical, have all the answers and know exactly what they are doing, the fact is, they do not. This pandemic is uncharted territory for all of us.
Early on, there was tremendous fear about touching objects that may have had the virus on them. Playground equipment, park benches and all sorts of things were covered with caution tape. Now we have experts saying a person’s chances of getting COVID-19 off a surface are negligible.
We were initially told masks were not needed. Was it because most of us were at home? Might it have been an effort to stop the public from buying and hoarding masks so essential workers would have enough? Were authorities afraid masks would be too hard a sell?
We were also told homemade masks were next to useless; now we are told they are just fine.
Depending on our level of paranoia, we might view this as more mixed messaging, or a clear indicator that experts are being open in relaying the latest information available.
This leads back to the second wave that has come crashing down on our heads just as life was starting to feel sort of normal. Some of us are horrified that this is happening. Others remember warnings issued months ago that it would, just as it did in 1918, and regard renewed restrictions as pretty much expected.
We put on our masks, wash our hands and go about our business – except, of course, for those who have decided wearing masks infringes on their right to do whatever they want, even if it puts themselves and everyone close to them in danger. Are they fighting for personal freedom or being selfish and stupid? The answer might well depend on whether you have a loved one who has died from COVID-19 or is at risk.
The province’s announcement on the Friday before Thanksgiving that “hot zones” – Toronto, Peel and Ottawa – were shifting back to a modified stage two came as no surprise.
A restaurant owner will view the decision differently from a health-care worker. However, if nothing else, it certainly corrected a problem in optics and messaging that had some people joking about holding their Thanksgiving celebration in a bar. With so much frustration and confusion over COVID-19, this decision made sense when viewed from just about any angle.