Editorial: No Balance In Reactionary Decision-Making By Province
Any rational person with a modicum of common sense living in Muskoka – or other small communities with low COVID numbers – must be on the edge of insanity by now.
Those of us who are balanced in our thoughts and see the whole picture on the situation at hand are concerned by the decisions and in some cases lack of decisions being made by the provincial government these days.
It’s been over a year since the pandemic became an issue in Ontario and Canada as a whole, but for some reason the decision-making by our elected officials has gotten worse as the time has passed.
Please take a moment to consider some of the details about our situation.
The province implements a strict colour coding COVID zone system to identify and protect areas where the virus is running rampant. Then, despite having this zoning system in place to curb the spread of the virus, the province decides not to follow its own rules and just throws out a province-wide lockdown this weekend.
The province refuses to establish imaginary lines on top of the existing imaginary lines to allow Muskoka – and other like communities in Ontario – to be considered their own entities separate of their health units for COVID colour zoning. This despite the fact they are collecting data specific to areas like Muskoka, which would allow them to easily treat the region separately.
The province refuses to acknowledge that areas with high-density populations are the places to be concerned about, while low-density areas like Muskoka (and similar communities) should be allowed to operate as normally as possible (while maintaining mask wearing and other protocols).
The province’s vaccine rollout can be at best rated as below-average considering there are thousands of unused vaccine doses queued up in syringes which will likely expire before they are used. Already a couple of thousand have gone to waste.
Speaking of vaccines, how come the province isn’t smart enough to realize curbing the spread of the virus would be administering the doses in a more prudent order.
First, stop the spread in seniors’ homes (one of the good things that has occurred in recent weeks); second, inoculate healthcare workers (especially those on the frontlines); third, 7vaccinate every person regardless of age who works in the public or who does the shopping for their senior family members; then everyone else who wants to get it regardless of age. In fact, vaccinating all the healthcare workers first would have also been a good step, considering most seniors aren’t leaving their homes and exposure comes from individuals making necessary visits.
The province shuts down sports for young children – and still refuses to fully re-open – despite there being no evidence that the virus has been spreading through contact sports. Whether it was soccer in Ontario through late summer, fall and early winter, or amateur and professional organized sports across North America, the consensus is the “field of play” is safe. This is due to several safety protocols being in place to prevent potential transmission.
The province forces small businesses to shut up shop – or greatly reduce their offerings – while allowing big box stores to remain open and sell all their wares (even non-essential items). The effect has seen an inordinate number of amazing venues close their doors – and many others on the brink of collapse.
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera . . .
Now for some hard facts (as of the April 3, 9 a.m. deadline).
Muskoka had only three (yes, 3) active COVID cases this week. There were two in Muskoka Lakes and one in Gravenhurst. No new cases, no hospitalizations, no reason to shut us down.
In Muskoka, we have 65,000 full-time residents (although we can all agree there are a lot more living here since the start of the pandemic). As well, we know there have been tens of thousands of out-of- town visitors from COVID hot spots descending upon our community.
With all those people living and visiting the area, there have been only 262 total cases; 97% of those have recovered.
Anyone with the desire to do so can find statistics that show Muskoka should be allowed to live life in a relatively normal fashion at: https://www.simcoemuskokahealthstats.org/topics/infectious-diseases/a-h/covid-19
According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, most COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka are from the Barrie and South Simcoe areas. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka reside in Barrie, Bradford West Gwillimbury, New Tecumseth, Essa, and Innisfil.
Also, seniors 80 years of age and older had the highest rate of infection in January, with over 90% of these cases associated with an institutional outbreak. Young adults (18-34 years) had the highest rate of infection in February and March.
For any sane individual looking at the numbers, Muskoka should never have been anything but in a green or yellow colour zone throughout this pandemic.
In fact, if we take a holistic view of the numbers across the province and the nation (thank you Marcia for that Facebook post this week) – we can take a positive spin on the situation.
Out of 352,460 cases of COVID in Ontario – note that there are over 14 million people in this province – 92 per cent have recovered so far, with only 2 per cent dying (I’m not diminishing anyone’s death; only using the numbers to point out the overall strong survival rate).
Also, think about this: only 2.5 per cent of the population of the province has contracted the virus. And the percentage of people who died from it doesn’t even register as a proper percentage (go ahead and do the math yourself if you so choose).
The national numbers are similar. Over 37 million people in Canada; 988,000 confirmed cases of COVID; 915,000 recovered (and counting); 23,000 deaths. The percentages: 2.7 per cent of the population contracted the virus, 93 per cent (and counting) recovered, 2 per cent of those with COVID have died . . . and, once again, the percentage of deaths among the total population does not register.
Just to be clear, I know how serious this virus is due to its ability to spread quickly, the danger it poses to individuals, and how hospital ICU’s can be overrun, which is why I believe we should be wearing masks indoors as well as being smart and safe in general. However, I am also a person of common sense who believes in balance and there is absolutely no balance in our lives right now.
Realistically when considering the overall numbers and percentages, small communities with low- density populations should have been able to continue – albeit safely – in a business-as-usual manner. I always find it funny that those wanting to put the “BE AFRAID” narrative ignores showing the fullpicture about the situation.
Of course, there are those who will argue this and disagree (after all, they only believe the numbers and data that back up their views). These are the people who don’t care if businesses go bankrupt, if children suffer, if the future is slowly being ruined by unnecessary restrictions in small communities with no outbreaks.
Why do you believe the present of a small group of individuals matters more than the future of our collective society? Why do you not question reports that only focus on the most negative aspects of a situation?
Why do you believe that the needs of the few surpass the needs of the many? Why do you believe some people have a right to live, but not others? Why can’t you and others at higher risk be the ones to stay home until vaccinated while everyone else can enjoy their lives?
And most importantly, why do you believe hiding in your home and locking down otherwise healthy communities can be considered a way of life?
You want to be scared about something? I will reiterate a few items from previous editorials.
Mental health is suffering. Physical health is suffering. Emotional health is suffering. But, not just for a few people, for many.
This is not conjecture. I speak to people and listen to what they have to say. I pay attention to social media discussions. I make it a point to get a sense for what’s happening. I do this because I care about what’s happening in our communities. With my public platform, I have duty to do so.
There is a mix of confusion, frustration and a growing distrust in our public officials which will only increase should the current state-of-affairs continue; and the reason for this is that people living communities like ours know the statistics don’t add up to stricter measures being imposed. Rather, our good COVID record should result in us having more freedoms, not less.
Our small businesses – especially the restaurants, hair salons and other locations – should be allowed to continue being fully open for business and operating in the safe manner they have been doing throughout.
We cannot be silent about this: the media, the locally elected officials, the businesses, the chambers of commerce, and the community at large must be united in continuing to push the provincial government to treat us (and communities like ours) fairly. We’re not saying to keep us open if suddenly an outbreak occurs – but, we are saying that unless that happens, we shouldn’t be treated as if it has.
That means finally recognizing in this ever-lasting pandemic that Muskoka – and communities like ours --need to be considered their own entities separate from their health units for COVID zoning purposes.
That means not pushing a faux “emergency brake” and supposed lockdowns which only really hurt small business owners when continuing with your original colour zone plans could have worked.
It means forcing big box stores and large grocery outlets to close off sections of their locations that do not have “essential items” in order to protect the competitive small businesses being forced to close during your so-called “lockdowns.”
That also means if Mr. Ford and his government – or more specifically the medical people who are now giving the orders – really want to do a “lockdown” in the worst COVID-hit areas, then they should do it for real.
“Lockdowns” and “stay-at-home” orders only matter if the people follow the rules – or in places like Italy and China, are forced to do so.
We in Muskoka – and other small communities across this province – know that the people from the hardest hit areas in the GTA and southern Ontario have been happily travelling all over the place despite the “stay-at-home” and “lockdown” orders.
Why are you not stopping travel out of the high-density hot zones, Mr. Ford? Why is the COVID zoning your government implemented no longer being followed? Why is the entire province is suffering for rising COVID numbers in specific locations? Why is it so hard to separate health units into the regions they represent? Why can’t the vaccination rollout be adapted to the situation – i.e. inoculate those at more risk of spreading the virus?
In essence, the question on my mind is: why can’t we have a balance, intelligent approach to managing the pandemic?
Take your time answering . . . I’ll wait. But I won’t hold my breath.
By Chris Occhiuzzi, for HuntersBayRadio.com