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Opinion: Bill Walton, Silver Linings

There should be some positive takeaways from the Virus.
20200414 isolation walton

There surely have been some lessons from the COVID 19 pandemic at all levels of our society.

Whether we will learn from them is a matter of conjecture. There is a percentage of the population who will claim the virus was not a serious threat to them; those are likely the people who ignored the social distancing directives and that percentage of the population who never believe any science.

If there was ever any doubt that our long-term care facilities and nursing homes were in dire need of an overhaul of staffing, procedures, and levels of care, we now know that things must change. The workers in these homes need recognition on their paycheques and their contracts so they are properly rewarded for the work they do. The homes themselves need improvement in isolation rooms, adequate safety supplies, and training for staff. The horrific reports of deaths in some Homes are enough to make one sincerely wish to never be in a position where that is where you spend your last days.

A lesson to us all is that we are too dependent on other counties in times of crisis for critical items like health care safety items, pharmaceuticals, and even food. I do not mention things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. How much of our food comes from other countries? Read the labels. Look at your clothing, your appliances, your leisure toys, your cell phones, and computers. We have become accustomed to international trade but in times of crisis or pandemics, our closest neighbours and trading partners can close their borders, not only to people but also to goods.

Mentioning food, where would we in North Bay be if the trucks that bring our food to us stopped?

A month into isolation, the shelves in stores would be bare in more than the toilet paper aisle. We, and others in the north, are quite vulnerable when it comes to our food supply. Of course, a person needs money or credit to buy that food and that is an issue for those who have lost their paycheques and do not have a rainy-day fund stashed in a savings account. When we get back on our feet, we should be thinking of building up a reserve of non-perishable foods – and money.

Spring is almost here and we hear of concern about the entry of foreign farmworkers who plant and then harvest our crops. Are we going to open our borders so they can enter, be checked for viruses, isolated for two weeks, and then allowed to work with the assurance that they can return to their homeland after the harvest? Or are we going to cajole some of our own people to work in the fields?

As excellent as our national health care system is, we need more coordination at the provincial level.

How did BC flatten their curve compared to Ontario and Quebec? How did the people in Alberta know to order adequate PPE supplies when the rest of the provinces failed to prepare? Why did we not realize early on that testing was critical? Nonetheless, our national system shines as an example to the nation to the south who struggled to get cooperation between states and the central government, not to mention between private hospitals and state hospitals.

Leadership is critical in times like this.

I think Justin Trudeau has risen to the occasion quite well. Doug Ford has been a pleasant surprise. In fact, most political leaders at the country or state or provincial level have been doing a very good job of adapting to the science and the changing data during the crisis. There has also been leadership by our retailers, especially in the grocery stores and those foodservice outlets that have tried to help keep us fed and our spirits high.

The economic recovery is going to call on leadership skills more than ever. Things are not going to return suddenly to the old normal. I expect we will have a gradual, cautious recovery. However we can hope to resume the happy way we lived before COVID-19: children back to school, restaurants open, social gatherings, sports events and shopping excursions.

The key to recovery may be the continued social distancing for another three or four weeks. More than ever, we need our healthcare workers, the people who are stocking our shelves, and the people steering those 18-wheelers across the country.

By mid-May, I hope I can social distance on my motorcycle! Stay well.




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Bill Walton

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