Editorial: Provincial reopening calls for renewed vigilance

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We all have seen it recently; groups of people congregating closely without masking up, large family holiday gatherings with both vaccinated and unvaccinated family members showing up for hugs and kisses with their turkey; with COVID numbers dropping swiftly and the fourth wave seemingly on the ebb the entire province is starting to exhale in relief. Queen’s Park is certainly in the forefront of those looking forward to the end of the pandemic, this week announcing the lifting of most restrictions—to the huge relief of a hospitality industry that has been among the hardest hit by restrictions.

But here is the fly in the ointment. COVID-19 and its close relatives have not left the building. You can still catch the virus, even if you are doubly and triply vaxxed. Chances are you won’t die or wind up in the critical care unit, but there is no ironclad guarantee you won’t, especially if you have conditions that make you vulnerable. 

The late and great Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State and the military architect of the current US military engagement strategies, proved that particular case. Despite some of the best (and most expensive) care in the Western world, he succumbed to the pandemic despite having two doses of the vaccine.

With the flu season looming on the horizon, we have a secondary reason to remain cautious.

That is not to say you should scurry back under the bed to cower in terror, but while you step out to explore your new-found freedom of movement (well, that is, if you can prove your double-shot vaccination status), a wise course of action would be to continue to maintain simple and sensible precautions. 

Those include keeping those much-maligned masks in place while in close quarters with other people and especially in the presence of the vulnerable—aged, ill or otherwise immunocompromised. Washing your hands at every turn and sanitizing surfaces that could promote the spread.

The low incidence of seasonal influenza last year proves the point: those simple efforts work. So, why toss them aside now? The number of new cases (in Ontario at least) is on the drop, providing proof of the efficacy of vaccinations and the restrictions implemented by the province over the loud and vociferous objections of the few. But although the numbers of new infections have dropped to the point our health system can be sustained, they have not been eliminated. Deaths have dropped dramatically, but people are still dying. Things have worked, but sorry Donald Trump, we have not yet woken up to the virus disappearing just yet.

So go out, enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant of your choice, goodness knows they need the support, but don’t completely drop your guard and start licking random surfaces with abandon on your way in. It’s still a dangerous world out there, just a world we can manage.

If we fail to do so, we may well see a return to restrictions—and none of us want to see that happen.