Editorial: Manitoulin weathered well its year of living dangerously

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As news of steadily increasing supplies of various COVID-19 vaccines begin to shore up the globe’s defences against the ravages of a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives, Canada is cautiously beginning to heave a sigh of relief—normality may soon be rising above the horizon.

As we look back over a year that clearly fits the description of “living dangerously,” Manitoulin communities may be forgiven a certain sense of satisfaction of having, so far, weathered the storm—fending off a pandemic that has threatened to lap upon our shores. With an older and more vulnerable population than most, made up of a 60-40 split of Indigenous residents and a very high rate of diabetes, we have not endured the devastation that has struck so many other communities.

When the pandemic first arrived in Canada, and particularly Ontario, Island leaders reacted swiftly—especially within the First Nations—albeit some of those reactions, in hindsight, might be considered to be a bit draconian in retrospect. But it is far easier to balance responses from the vantage point of an armchair replete with the advantages of a year of experience and science than it is in the midst of impending crisis.

Today we stand secure, with no attributed deaths and barely a handful of positive cases to our credit. Island long-term care facilities have been spared the terrifying infections and mortalities that have beset other facilities. Some within our own riding have not been so fortunate, as Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes has noted, a Kapuskasing long-term care facility saw nearly every resident testing positive and numerous deaths occurring.

The dedication of Island residents to diligently maintaining COVID-19 protocols, wearing masks, keeping distance, avoiding unnecessary travel and, yes, washing and disinfecting hands at every turn, has made a difference. As an added bonus, this year’s flu season has proven to be the lowest on record. Sorry conspiracy buffs, the same protocols that have kept the pandemic at bay also limit the spread of influenza.

It is important as we come close to cresting the pandemic hill to remember the admonition of one Che Guevara and stay vigilant. That wily Cuban guerilla fighter advised striking enemy patrols just before they crested a hill because that was when their guard would be down and most vulnerable.

As more and more people are vaccinated we will approach herd immunity, but that moment when the virus has been wrestled into that place to which polio has been consigned has not yet arrived. 

We have weathered much of the storm and safe harbour is heaving into sight, but we are not safely nestled at the docks just yet. This is not yet time to let down our guard, as the latest blip in the numbers has shown—we are not yet safe.

Do not let social media conspiracy theorists deter you from stepping into line to receive a vaccine when your turn arrives. Together we will win if we simply stay the course. Keep your shields up, your masks on and wash your hands—and yes, stay kind.

We will get through this together.