We are into week 10 since Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a provincial state of emergency and it appears for now that new COVID-19 cases and related deaths are starting to be contained in parts of the province. Peel Region residents are still advised to stay home as the region will be opening up at a slower rate than the rest of the province. As health experts in Canada work with our hierarchies of government to scale back COVID-19 lockdown measures on the economy and society, there still remains the real risk that we may experience a second wave of infections later in the year.
The pandemic response so far has glaringly exposed facets of our lives that we take for granted. Many of the measures that have been put in place will likely persist until public health officials deem otherwise. Many of these experts are warning that a vaccine may take a long time to develop and we may be living with this virus for the foreseeable future. How have we fared?
Social distancing, PPE, planking the curve, lock-down, hoarding and six feet of separation have become part of our everyday vocabulary. Citizens in democratic societies have been asked to self-quarantine for weeks at a time and even fined for congregating in parks and public venues. Social media platforms have exploded with videos of isolation experiences and heartfelt stories of support. Organizations and individuals have stepped up with selfless acts of kindness and sacrifice to donate food and PPE to front line workers and those less fortunate. The pandemic has revealed the stark reality of human nature and cracks within our institutions and society.
While some politicians have lead, others have floundered, using the pandemic for crass and transparent self promotion to voters. Some religious leaders have offered hope, others have been exposed as cheap charlatans. Some companies stepped up to produce PPE and ventilators, others price gouge and self-promote through transparent marketing. Some people have volunteered their time and donated to help those in need, others have abandoned their responsibilities.
While many of the lowest compensated workers in society have bravely gone to work, others have used the pandemic to hide behind their own selfishness. Some have hoarded supplies, others have donated generously. Some carelessly discard used masks and gloves in total disregard of the health and environmental consequences.
Positive trends have also surfaced. Families are spending more time around the kitchen table having in-depth conversations and playing board games. Individuals are discovering new skills and dusting off old ones. Those who couldn’t sew a button on a shirt, now sew hundreds of protective face masks. Those who couldn’t boil and egg have suddenly become master chefs. Even those lacking a green thumb are becoming urban farmers.
Working from home took a while for many to figure out, and now it seems like a good idea to keep doing. The family dynamic has changed with parents becoming full-time teachers for their young students and shared household responsibilities including grocery shopping. Our seniors, who are mostly staying at home are being supported in Brampton by random strangers who voluntarily do their grocery shopping.
Domestic violence is the silent crime inside of people’s homes that experts are very worried about during this unprecedented lockdown. As we go forward, divorce rates, crime, homelessness, impacts on student learning, mental health and suicide rates will increase in concern. Taxes, debt, foreclosures, evictions and bankruptcies will certainly increase.
No one can predict what the new norm will look like and when that transition will happen. What we do know however is that 2020 will be a year that will be remembered and studied decades from now, and we haven’t even reach the mid-way point.