COVID fatigue takes various forms - Keith Roulston editorial
As the case count for COVID-19 surges across the country, the term “COVID fatigue” has become part of our vocabulary. It comes in several different varieties.
Certainly, the regular meaning of the term is evident in the recent explosion of cases. Let’s face it, after months of restrictions we all just want to get back to normal – to go shopping without masks or go to a bar without guilt.
For weeks, two-thirds of new diagnoses were among people under 40 years of age. Younger people, tired of the restrictions meant to limit the spread of the disease, wanted what they saw as the right to party that was their due because of their age. Besides, they’d been told many times, most of the deaths from the infections were among seniors.
Many Canadians who would be appalled at being compared to U.S. President Donald Trump basically want what he’s promised – that the pandemic would mysteriously disappear without great sacrifice or that a magical drug would cure the disease or a vaccine would quickly be available and make us all safe. Looking at the numbers of infections and death in the U.S. shows us how well that approach is working!
And so, from one cause or another, Ontario is now recording more new cases many days than it did in the spring. The infections are starting to spread from young people to older, more vulnerable citizens. It’s only a matter of time before the death toll increases, especially if we didn’t learn lessons about how to protect people in seniors’ homes or long-term care facilities.
But there are other ways that COVID fatigue – or maybe it should be COVID grumpiness – is displayed.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical officer, who has been widely admired for her handling of the disease in her province, admitted recently that she had received death threats. Many of the country’s most-high-profile public health officials apparently have also been threatened.
But if there has been one place where we’re nearly back to pre-COVID normal it’s in politics. Back in the spring, political leaders had terrible decisions to make about shutting down the economy to “flatten the curve” of the infection and spending money to protect many of the victims of business closures.
While they bore tremendous responsibility, however, leaders found themselves in the unique position of being beyond criticism. Stunned by the ferocity of this new disease, we embraced our leaders, who in turn took the best advice of doctors and scientists. We didn’t want to hear criticism. We gratefully accepted our leaders’ leadership.
People who never thought they’d agree with Premier Doug Ford on anything found admiration for his decisiveness and (who’d have guessed?) empathy. Support for leaders soared to the point some provincial governments called elections to take advantage of their popularity.
It must have seemed like a nightmare for opposition politicians who wake up in the morning thinking up weaknesses to exploit in the government. Suddenly they might as well have taken a long vacation because the public didn’t want to hear from them.
Premier Ford stepped on a hornet’s nest when he mentioned there would be 10 relatives at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner when public health officials were suggesting the holiday should be restricted only to those in the household.
Federally, the Conservatives have been beating up on the government for not having rapid COVID-19 testing devices on the market sooner. The government had been waiting for Health Canada scientists to approve the tests. Apparently the Conservatives think the government should have overridden the scientists – the sort of pressure President Trump has been putting on scientists to fast-track possible cures.
Canadians enjoyed a brief truce in the war between the provinces and the federal government back in the spring when the federal government was acting like an ATM machine to finance provinces’ emergency measures to combat the impact of the pandemic. The old ways have returned with provinces demanding more federal money so they, themselves, don’t need to run bigger deficits.
And the critics of the massive federal borrowing and spending to support businesses and individuals hurt by the shutdown have become more vocal. Certainly the federal debt is troubling but what alternative would these critics suggest? That there was no shutdown? That people affected be left on their own, losing their houses and unable to feed their children?
Perhaps COVID grumpiness is healthy, keeping leaders’ actions under the microscope. Still, it sure blows up the idea from back in the spring that we’re all in this together.