Too Far?

I’m all for whatever we need to stop this virus thing. Today, it seems like we’ve reached a bit of a peak, as far as options driven by panic are concerned.

The number of people in the last few days who’ve insisted they have it, despite having no reason to actually believe that, is starting to be concerning. I worry about their mental states and the long term effects isolation and stress is having on them (and the people they’re in contact with).

Haven’t left your house in three weeks, but someone you know of, but have never had any close contact with, has it? Yeah, you don’t have it.

Had a cold or the flu before Christmas, more a month before it showed up in this country? Yeah, you don’t have it.

Saw a breakout at the nursing home where someone you know is staying, but where you haven’t been in months? Yeah, you don’t have it.

People, if you’ve been following the rules and staying in, practicing social distancing and like me, have only left your house for groceries?

Unless you’re really, really unlucky, given that even if we assume the number of cases is 10X the reported number (or a hundred times, for that matter), is less than 1% of the current population (at 100X), many of whom are also social distancing or self-isolating or quarantined, you probably haven’t caught it during that grocery outing.

Take a breath, people. We’ve got our officials setting up snitch lines and rumours of police pulling over cars with more than one person to check they’re part of the same household. We’re already in full Charter of Rights & Freedoms freefall, looking more like West Germany with our food lines and limited gatherings and intentional separation of people from one another. I get that it’s not a populist power grab, but still… the parallels of actual rules and behaviour are there.

We have food lines. We have restricted gatherings and access to goods and services. We have snitch lines. These are staples of stories about authoritarian states.

To me, we crossed a line with that last one, and from what I understand, people are already using it to throw innocents under the bus, because they’re shitty neighbours.

Panic and fear are driving our decision making now, and even the slightest question of whether this is the best or right way to do things is being met by howls of derision. People asking simple questions, like, “is there a better way?” are being met with the slander of “selfish” and “evil” and “not caring about other people”.

Taiwan gave their people face masks almost immediately and have had great success with restricting the spread of the virus through aggressive quarantine monitoring and temperature taking everywhere. As of this writing, they’ve had 348 total cases, despite being right next to China, and a place that has (or had) plenty of Chinese visitors. They were pretty quick to restrict travellers.

Of course, unlike much of the west, they were much, much better prepared and much more aggressive when the virus first surfaced in Wuhan, having learned from SARS, so it’s a little bit of a different situation.

I can’t help but think of the face masks though. The WHO said they don’t help, but recent articles have suggested otherwise, and I’ve seen at least one in a major newspaper (which I cannot find now, damn it, wait, there it is: that suggested the WHO’s discarding of the helpfulness of facemasks will not be looked upon kindly by history.

Especially given the success they’ve had in Singapore and Taiwan giving a regular allotment to all citizens.

But then, instead, we’d rather freak out and yell at everyone to stay inside while we implement an authoritarian state. Because paying everyone’s salaries or EI for months is apparently smarter than handing out N95 facemasks and teaching people how to wear them.

And I’m fully aware that the National Post is not usually a great source, because of its hard right-leaning ways. However, read the article. It’s reasonable and actually cites proper research. It’s not the usual right wing skewed propaganda. Like Doug Ford’s surprisingly decent response to this pandemic, it’s actually pretty well done.

But of course, I’m the bad guy for suggesting that maybe this whole “stay inside and never see anyone again” plan isn’t a great plan long term. It may work in the short term, but ultimately, if this time isn’t being used to come up with a much better, more effective plan, it’s little more than a stopgap solution whose duration runs an ever increasing risk of creating bigger problems than it’s intended to solve.

In the same way COVID-19 overburdens health care so that the usual influx of patients aren’t getting the care they need, this policy is merely a dam trying to hold back a river that’s rapidly swelling to its limits. And when it rises over the banks, the dam may be only part of the problem, and we may be in for all kinds of second order problems that have appeared or built-up because we simply don’t have the resources to deal with it, or because the solution (going back into the world) becomes a national Sophie’s choice.

And I’m not advocating we do that – that is not where we are yet, and it will depend entirely on what the facts are when we get there. COVID-19 could still be the worst of our problems when we get there. I’m just saying, the longer this goes on, the more likely it is that we’re going to have to face some terrible choices.

Let the coronavirus spread or suffer any order of other consequences, some of which could last decades. Authoritarian rule (and you’re blind as a bat if you don’t think that’s exactly what people like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and other right wing leaders aren’t aiming for by year’s end), people dying from non-coronavirus related issues that won’t be able to get proper care, domestic abuse (already on the rise according to this morning’s paper), mental health issues, suicide, devastating poverty, the cessation of action on the increasingly critical and time-sensitive issue of climate change…

The list is endless, and the longer this lockdown goes on, the greater the magnitude of our ignorance of these other critical issues will be.

And that terrifies me more than anything else. The world hasn’t stopped while we’ve hidden inside, and when we come out, we may have one hell of a mess to clean up.

Of course, I hope that I’m wrong. I really do. I hope that all this screaming of how seriously horrible this is is entirely spot on and I’m just doing the thing I can’t avoid: searching for perspective and playing Devil’s Advocate.

It’s literally all I do, and if that makes me a bad person, then I guess that’s the way it is.

Again, I hope I’m wrong.

I hope we’re all wrong, and everything will be just fine.

I just can’t ignore the alternatives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *