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Opinion: Dave Dale, Lessons to learn for the next pandemic

The wind carried amplified talk about a looming new world order, threatened freedoms, vaccines something, something and mask-wearing oppression to the skies above.
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North Bay No More Lockdowns gathering at Lake Nipissing waterfront. June 12, 2021.

The Lake Nipissing waterfront was an oasis far away from world troubles Saturday afternoon. Sun, cloud and breeze blended to create a comfortably warm embrace.

It was much-appreciated relief for many as we head into the second summer of this sometimes confusing, sometimes infuriating pandemic roller coaster. Will there be a fourth Delta-force wave and the resulting knee-jerk cascade of clashing logic, data and political finger-pointing?

I burned a couple $1.35-litres of gas to shoot a few shads and get some air. The drought-like spring beckoned the Lake Nipissing shadflies a couple weeks early. Not sure whether to blame climate change, Trump, Trudeau or all three.

Such heady thoughts evaporated when I saw paddlers, sailors, and motor-crafters plying calm waters off Callander and North Bay. Anglers young and old were casting off docks and trolling from boats rather than needling people on social media.

Nice to see kids climbing and sliding again. The yellow ‘keep out’ tape at the parks has been gone for weeks, not sure if that was covered in little Arthur’s lobby letter to Premier Doug Ford.

Cyclists, skateboarders and walkers shared the trails and pathways with steady streams going both directions as I drove between the Goulet Golden Mile and Kate Pace Way.

Aside from the odd mask, the only sign of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was another No More Lockdowns protest at the Rotary gazebo. Patrons of The Chief Restaurant could probably hear the speeches as they sipped cold drinks from the patio for the first time in a while.

The first stage of the provincial re-opening plan kicked into gear Friday after vaccination gaps closed and the number of new COVID-19 cases stabilized provincially.

North Bay has a couple of dozen cases or so, a bit higher number than we’re used to around here. And now we have an outbreak at the jail. I wonder if it’s echoes of the Delta variant that spread across the region via planeloads of returning Baffinland miners a while back? It would be nice to know the relevant information as cases are announced. Every time in real time. Inter-provincial workers? Travelers? Visitors? Workplaces?

City police officers watched the peaceful rally from two patrol cars, a cycling cop’s wheels parked beside them. A North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit enforcement officer leaned against his vehicle while keeping an eye for transgressions.

They’ve been letting people vent and then tracking attendees and organizers down to issue fines after the fact.  It reduces the chances of potential exposures. I heard there’s 5 to 10 on the force quarantining as a precaution after one officer became positive somehow.

The wind carried amplified talk about a looming new world order, threatened freedoms, vaccines something, something and mask-wearing oppression to the skies above.

I hope it’s always so oppressive that you can hold a protest in a public park (risking only fines and court fights instead of batons and bullets) to share whatever theories come to mind. It’s cool, everybody should rebel a little bit if nobody else gets hurt.

Seriously, I get it. Plenty of illogical rule-making has gone on. I felt compelled to over-rule a few myself, bent and broke some others as required. Trying to balance everything out after losing confidence in most authorities.

I took the risk and got the first jab of Moderna in May, despite the rushed and skipped testing. I wear a mask going into buildings and happy not to shake too many hands or at least washing them afterward. It’s funny, sort of, how outreached hands now seem like a challenge of your position these days.

Whatever. I have respect for those who have heightened fears or reasons for extra caution, as well as those who push back against flawed official doctrine and even those who just can’t quite comprehend the complexities.

I’m always open to a discussion about it, by the way. Anti-vaxers make better conversation than my crypto buddies describing how they’ll spend their Bitcoin fortunes.

This year has been a bit of a tight rope walk for all, frightful for some and fatal for too many. It’s not a time to be absolute in your assessments.

For what it’s worth, here’s my current Cole’s Notes of pandemic thoughts: of course it was a lab leak, dumb humans (this was clearly the most likely scenario a year ago); cover-ups and political games allowed the virus to spread; none of that changes a darn thing, the viral cat slipped out of the bag; thousands of long-term care deaths were avoidable, many from criminal neglect and not COVID-19 per se (we failed our elders); obviously cuts to public health and nickel-and-diming hospitals wasn’t wise (criminal we couldn’t prioritize essential front-liners properly); it was clear 12 months ago it spread through the air, institutional prejudice delayed a vital pivot in approach; political jousting with teachers began long before the pandemic and wore heavily on everyone (including grandparents babysitting online teaching experiments); these vaccines are as safe as any of the vaccines we take, fingers crossed; masks symbolize caring if nothing else, those who faked medical excuses and made store clerks uneasy are immature; and relax, it would be a good sign if they actually thought we were worth tracking more than ‘they’ already do.

The next pandemic should be a breeze. We’ve done a whole lot of learning the hard way – and everybody knows practical learning is so much more valuable than that boring academic research and scientific discovery way.

Of course, it’s putting decisions in the hands of political minds that makes things sticky. Doesn’t matter if we develop a playbook, had one this time and it was thrown out the window.

Politicians and their spin masters, for the most part, are just not programmed to think outside the pursuit of their own welfare.

On the flip side, it’s clear the lab coats are disconnected from social reality.

We need to prepare to function through pandemics, not put our collective heads in the sand. We need people who want to find ways to make things work, not just flip switches on and off.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to editor@baytoday.ca. To contact the writer directly, email: davedale@backinthebay.ca or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca