Editorial: ‘We’re all in this together’ must be our positive mantra

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What great news it was earlier this week when Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) announced (some will say ‘finally’) that residents and staff at long-term care homes in Manitoulin and Sudbury will receive their initial jab of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of next week, February 5.

That will certainly be a weight lifted from the collective shoulders of residents’ families and community leaders throughout our region.

What a relief that these particular groups of vulnerable folks will have a leg up on the infections that have been so devastating in similar facilities in southern Ontario and in nearby Sudbury as well.

Given the present circumstances, events are unfolding remarkably well.

Later this week, for example, Manitoulin Health Centre will take delivery of and install one of the ultra-cold (to -70°C) freezers required to keep the Pfizer vaccine healthy and stable and ready for injections.

And how was this expensive freezer paid for? With surplus funds from a campaign initiated last spring by M’Chigeeng Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige when she challenged other Island First Nations, municipalities, businesses and individuals to donate to a fund in order to purchase four new ventilator units (two each for the Mindemoya and Little Current hospitals) in the event these were required locally for seriously-afflicted COVID-19 victims.

The campaign far exceeded its goal with surplus funds enough to purchase this vital freezer.

(And, for the record, none of the few adult COVID-19 diagnoses on Manitoulin have so far required the services of a ventilator nor the use of the field hospital established for Manitoulin residents at the outset of the pandemic at the Northeast Town recreation centre.)

Hopefully the program to vaccinate residents and staff at the Manitoulin Centennial Manor in Little Current and at the Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay will be extended to include institutions such as the TLC residence in Little Current and the Manitoulin Community Living residences in Mindemoya as well.

Residents and staff of Wikwemikong Nursing Home, who received their initial injections of the Moderna vaccine (that doesn’t require such a cold environment to remain viable) on January 13 can look forward to receiving the necessary booster shot, granting them nearly full immunity, in two weeks’ time.

All of these imminent targets are quite remarkable when we consider that, precisely one year ago Monday of this week, the first diagnosis of a case of COVID-19 was made in Canada and only one month earlier this new coronavirus was initially identified in Wuhan, China.

And now, the world’s brightest and best scientists have rolled out several vaccine options, in a timeframe that far outstrips any other vaccine for any other virus.

While we must consider this pandemic an international tragedy that has cost hundreds of thousands of live so far, we must also be thankful to live in the times that we do when science can produce something that will interrupt the horror of COVID-19’s quick spread.

We must also remind ourselves that we are at our best when we display empathy—and at our worst when we don’t.

The COVID-19 shaming experiences of the Little Current family, also profiled in this paper (along with the good news about imminent vaccination dates at Island long-term care facilities and the new and necessary ultra-cold freezer) comes out of fears that the constant barrage of COVID-19 horror stories has engendered.

From the outset of the pandemic, we have been told, and have ultimately reminded one another, that, ‘we are in this together.’

Well, we are. And some of us have had the misfortune, through no fault of our own, to fall victim to this new virus.

Canadians are by and large a caring people and the interesting microcosm that is Manitoulin Island is in virtually every endeavour a mirror of the national picture.

People don’t want to contract this illness. They don’t want to spread it. They are diligent about obeying the rules of quarantine and hygiene. Of course there are exceptions; there always are.

But in our small communities on Manitoulin it is reasonable (and empathetic) to assume that these public health rules won’t be willingly and knowingly broken.

To make the assumption, without seeking the facts, that people among us would ignorantly and willfully spread the virus is the opposite of the empathy that is the glue that lets us live together in what we call ‘society.’

We can do better.

After all, we’re all in this together. How does public shaming square with this statement to which most of us, in our own ways, have pledged allegiance?