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COLUMN: Chaos and COVID-19

Enough already. Canadians, individually and collectively, have started to run out of tolerance for the restraints that we have accepted to date. There have been heroic efforts to identify and treat those who are ill.
Murdock Alan-col
Columnist Alan Murdock

Enough already. Canadians, individually and collectively, have started to run out of tolerance for the restraints that we have accepted to date.

There have been heroic efforts to identify and treat those who are ill. Politically, administratively and health-care wise, we have been very well served. (At least compared to the confusion and disarray south of the border and in the UK). We also know that our diagnostic and management tools for containing the pandemic are incomplete, particularly in the crucial area of testing and contact tracing. We have also become aware that our long-term care centres and home care programs have been chronically and seriously under-resourced and in many instances neglected. But we also know what needs to be done to correct these and some improvements are underway.

As a community and individually, we had been fully on board with the public health, social and economic restraints until Easter. That time has passed. We have reached a point of community quarantine fatigue. The numbers of cars in our shopping centres has increased noticeably since Easter weekend and presently restricted social activities are sprouting in some areas of our city. Even social media is showing fatigue. Taboola, a NYC advertising company which tracks these data, has reported Twitter articles referencing COVID or coronavirus have dropped from a peak of 1.68 billion on March 23 to 980 million on April 13.

We have been under national orders for spatial bubbling, social isolation and economic shutdown for nearly a month. We have now reached the end of the biblical time framework for quarantine (40 days and nights) initially set up in 1348 during the Black Plague. (This restriction was applied to ships arriving at Venice before they could dock and unload their cargo and crews).  

It is time for our political leaders to take the reins of societal reopening from public health officials. We accept that this pandemic cannot be considered under control epidemiologically until no new cases have been reported for at least two weeks. But that won’t happen for at least another six to 12 months (if that). And if we delay doing anything meaningful until September, we run the real risk that economically there will be precious little to reopen.

We urgently need a publicly released, structured, comprehensive action plan to restart our economic and core community activities. If not, we have clear signals that more and more stressed and desperate individuals, groups and businesses will break ranks and fight for survival.

We have been particularly fortunate in St. Albert with only 27 cases reported, of whom 24 have recovered. And we have had no deaths. And in the whole of the Edmonton region, with a population of 1.2 million, less than 440 cases have been diagnosed with a mortality rate of 1 death per 150,000 population.

Yes, we run a risk of more COVID 19 cases. But the social and economic cost of remaining hunkered down is not tolerable. And we aren’t stupidly unaware of the risks.

Perhaps the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce and our school boards should take the lead if our political leaders are too disorganized or timid to do so.