Pandemic or endemic?
While President Biden’s declaration of the pandemic being over during a 60 Minutes interview earlier this week may be more politically driven than fact-based, the World Health Organization does believe that the end is in sight. With weekly deaths from the dreaded COVID-19 now at their lowest since March 2020 when the pandemic began, we are getting much closer to the illness being considered endemic, which means constantly present but with a predictable spread so that it is manageable by our health care system.
While Biden wants to reassure a weary nation and bolster a sagging economy, even his White House COVID-19 team admits that there is still work to be done to get to the actual end.
Countries need to push for as much vaccination as possible, especially in high-risk populations and to keep testing, as well as maintaining supplies and health-care workers at levels that can handle future waves of infection and the possibility of new variants.
If individuals can follow simple health guidelines, like staying home if you are sick or wearing a mask when needed, we will get across the finish line much faster. – DS
Confidence is waning
Earlier this year, amid rolling emergency room closures and staffing concerns at local hospitals, this very editorial board wondered aloud if areas like Huron County were the canary in the coal mine for Ontario’s healthcare system. We had come to expect weekend emergency room closures at some of the area’s smaller hospitals and then, a few months later, when closures either occurred or were threatened at hospitals in cities as big as Toronto, the whole country took notice.
Now, a report from Angus Reid shows that two in five Canadians were unable to access essential healthcare services over the previous six months. However, the more shocking metric from the report is that, based on the opinions of the nearly 3,500 Canadians and Americans surveyed, our neighbours to the south have more confidence in their healthcare system than we do here in Canada.
This is a devastating blow to Canadian pride, a pillar of which has long been the country’s universal healthcare system. While some have incorrectly blamed COVID-19 vaccination mandates, experts say there have been whispers of staffing shortages on the horizon for decades.
In the Angus Reid report, 70 per cent of Americans were confident they’d be able to access urgent care in a timely fashion, compared to just 37 per cent of Canadians thinking likewise. That’s something that should frighten us all. Delayed surgeries and long waits are one thing, but when in an emergency, people need to know there’s help.
This could be the perfect storm that brings privatized healthcare to Ontario, something pundits have long suspected is on Premier Doug Ford’s agenda. Regardless, when it came to healthcare, Canadians have long held up their way as the gold standard, especially when compared to the U.S., where a freak injury or sustained illness can bankrupt a family, but that tide, sadly, appears it could be turning. – SL
Online, Hybrid or offline?
With newly-elected councils taking over local municipalities in the coming weeks, council members, both green and veteran, will be faced with a number of choices, including how virtual and hybrid meetings should be handled going forward.
It seems like there are as many options for online council meetings participation as there are councils, but it can be boiled down to four main situations: councils that refuse to meet online, councils that use hybrid meeting models, councils that will occasionally meet online and councils that broadcast their meetings.
Using Huron County as an example, Huron East recently put an end to online council meetings due to the time involved and the finances that would be necessary to host hybrid meetings. North Huron has, for years, offered a chance for people to view meetings through YouTube broadcasts. Finally, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh (ACW) Township Council hosts hybrid meetings, the best of both worlds.
While ACW was able to accommodate hybrid meetings through renovations to its council chambers, not every municipality has that option, so, for other municipalities, when do online meetings work?
The answer is they work when they are purpose-driven. If a meeting will be short or deal with relatively straight-forward matters, then online-only meetings aren’t just feasible, they are an option to save money on everything from mileage to staff participation. They can also make sure that meetings can be held during the harshest winter storms going, provided power and internet stay on.
While we may all want to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, local councils should consider not throwing out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to digital participation in meetings. There is a way to do it right, and, if it’s done right, the change can be worth the savings. – JDS