House Call with Carol Hughes

No time to let up

While we remain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that is transforming our entire society, there are encouraging signs that our great collective effort is having a desired effect. The general dampening of the virus’ spread in Canada is noticeable when compared to the experience of our southern neighbour. An important consideration, however, is that we appear to be in the early stages of the pandemic and it may take months of physical distancing to ensure the best possible outcome.

One certainty is that things are changing rapidly, especially in these first few weeks as we have been consumed with economic and logistical concerns. We have rushed to secure income for hundreds of thousands of people while scrambling for medical supplies so our health care professionals are best prepared for the challenge. These efforts have been impressive, but the government hasn’t anticipated all it will be faced with, or how they might best address it. That is why Parliament will likely be recalled in some form in the coming days.

While it’s tempting to be critical, especially in partisan politics, the government has been forced to deal with things they never would have imagined a few months back. Despite that, the notion that such an event could occur was not unheard of, just disregarded. This is in part because we have organized ourselves in such a way as to prioritize personal gain above all else. Those same supply chains that maximized profits with inexpensive labour in countries like China and India are now constricted and threaten our ability to meet domestic need on some important fronts. In the long term, we will have to revisit this trade-off and build more local resilience into supply chains for critical things like prescription drugs and food.

As a society, we have come to accept many of the side-effects of the way our economy has been built. We have learned to look the other way when presented with extreme poverty, homelessness and inequality. We allow the wealthiest among us to horde incredible fortunes they could never spend in a hundred lifetimes at the expense of individuals who, despite working full-time, can’t make ends meet. This event is challenging that economic mindset. We are beginning to understand how the humble grocery store employee is far important to our lives than celebrities or professional athletes. With any luck, the clarity from our moment of need will remain with us when we emerge from this crisis.

That elusive moment is something there is no schedule or time frame for. While most of us clamour for certainty in our lives, that is something nobody can offer when it comes to the pandemic. As the weeks add up, more officials and government leaders are talking in terms of a months-long effort that could extend into the summer. Although this is disappointing it is also entirely within our capabilities and we will continue to surprise ourselves with resiliency and optimism.

They say it takes six weeks to make a new habit, many of us are already half-way there. With the onset of better weather and the ability to comfortably spend more time outdoors, we can hope the next few weeks pass a little more quickly, and we will continue to see encouraging signs that our efforts have borne fruit. That’s why we must remain committed to our efforts, so our health-care professionals have the best chance possible. One thing is clear, this is no time to let up or give in to frustrations. Our health care professionals are putting themselves directly in harm’s way to deal with the pandemic, our physical distancing measures are the least we can do to support them, ourselves, and our communities in the process.