COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon – and neither, it seems, is the blatant politicization of this pandemic.
Calls are growing louder for unilateral measures forcing a total lockdown, while other calls remain for loosening of restrictions. Very few voices seem to fall in the middle, and this polarization has grown by the day.
Now, we’re at a point where people tune out of daily lectures on how dire our COVID-19 situation is – and make no mistake, it is dire, with 20 Albertans’ deaths reported Monday. Our case counts are higher than ever and climbing rapidly. The virus has become a trigger for others, evoking anxiety attacks or feelings of dread.
Clearly this pandemic is out of control in Alberta, with recent tepid measures unlikely to slow rising numbers. Equally out of control is the hysteria around it, fuelling calls for another total lockdown on one side, and a herd immunity approach on the other, such as the Great Barrington Declaration cosigned by dozens of scientists, doctors and academics in Massachussets in October. COVID-19 dominates news programs and radio shows, daily headlines and social media. We’ve moulded our lives around it, and yet we’re still losing the battle.
The truth is, COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future. A vaccine could still be a year or more away, and it’s unlikely we will see any steady decline in our active cases until that vaccine arrives. While lockdowns may be effective for short periods of time, numbers inevitably rise once the lockdown lifts – as we experienced. Cycles of lockdowns are not sustainable for our economy or society, requiring vast sums of public dollars to support businesses and employees whose incomes are decimated. Additionally, most of Alberta’s cases that have known sources are linked to social and family gatherings – and our government is not about to start policing people in their own homes.
But the province has provided little in the way of leadership, instead muddying the water with seemingly arbitrary restrictions. Last week, the government inexplicably targeted group fitness activities and brought in a curfew for restaurants, lounges, pubs and bars in zones with an “enhanced” designation. These restrictions have been rightly criticized as targeting the wrong crowd. Premier Jason Kenney has denounced lockdowns but hasn’t committed to any other way forward – perhaps because the only other option is to make peace with the fact that until we have a vaccine, we may just have to live with this virus. That’s bound to be an unpopular tactic, and understandably so, given the amount of people who have tragically died from COVID-19.
The good news is we can still protect ourselves and the people around us. Given how easily COVID-19 spreads, this takes collective responsibility and some common sense. It requires us to forgo social events, follow distancing protocols and adhere to strict safety measures if we’re visiting with elderly or vulnerable loved ones. People experiencing COVID fatigue need to come to terms with the fact they need to help protect others for many months yet. We’re nine months into this pandemic and we could have a year left to go. It’s time we learned to live with it – and that means taking every personal precaution we can to protect those around us. The alternative, bearing consequences that could devastate our society, is another hard lockdown.
Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.