News from the vaccine front no reason for complacency

Word that another confirmed case of COVID-19 has been discovered in the Manitoulin District should act as a stern counterbalance to the breaking news that a number of potential vaccines have produced encouraging results. The message is clear—we are far from out of the woods and the global pandemic remains a threat.

With rising cases appearing in Sudbury, the closest large urban centre to Manitoulin, we have so far managed to dodge the worst-case scenarios thanks to diligence and (probably) a good dose of luck. But luck is not by any stretch of the imagination a dependable defence against a virus that has infected over 300,000 people in Canada, killing more than 11,000; some 3,400 in Ontario alone. Evidence suggests that many of those who survive a brush with COVID-19 will go on to experience life-altering impacts on their health for the remainder of their lives.

Manitoulin residents’ travel to and off the Island dropped precipitously following the initial arrival of the pandemic in Northern Ontario, as witnessed by the huge rise in local shopping experienced by Island grocery stores and other Island merchants, but gradually, as the number of confirmed cases on Manitoulin failed to rise to crisis proportions (still remaining well below double digits) our complacency has tended to rise. One active case, in the wrong place and at the wrong time, could change all that in a heartbeat. We can and must remain vigilant.

The imposition of travel restrictions in many of Manitoulin’s communities was (and remains) contentious, but there is little doubt that those restrictions will return should any sign of a pernicious outbreak appear in our midst.

With literally hundreds of hunters travelling onto the Island from regions of the province experiencing rising numbers of infections, a renewed vigilance is vital. Washing hands (even to the point of obsessively), maintaining physical distance of at least six feet and masking up are not the maximum of precautions, they are the bare minimum we should endeavour to attain.

We can keep our communities safe if we stick to those regimens. Not everyone will and there will always be those who balk at the necessary restrictions, but with the vast majority of Islanders sticking to the program, we have so far managed to keep COVID-19 at bay.

With the second wave threatening to lap upon our shores, now is no time to let down our guard.

Our Island is quite literally composed of the descendants of nations of survivors. We can do this if we put our hearts and minds behind it.

Several vaccines are in development and showing promise, they are on their way and we can only hope and pray that these efforts will eventually allow us to return to the lives we once took for granted—but those vaccines are not here yet and it will be months, if not a year, until they are distributed widely enough to allow us to begin to drop our guard.

In the meantime, we must continue to wash our hands, continue to put on our masks, continue to keep our distance wherever possible and (not least in the mix) continue to shop local—these are the defences that have and will continue to keep us safe.