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Posted: April 19, 2020

COVID-19 fight must continue regardless of economic cost

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

So there I was on Wednesday walking through the rustic environs of the newly reborn Idlewild Park – kudos to council for finishing that project – and listening to the birds singing, a spring breeze rustling through the trees and watching other walkers strolling at a socially safe distance beside the still frozen pond.

What could be better than this, I thought.

Well, we all know how one thought leads to another and soon I was thinking that maybe now was the time to relax the rules a bit on the health protocols for COVID-19 and start planning for a staged return to normality and reviving the economy as surely we must someday or risk plunging ourselves into a depression with the potential to be worse than the Hungry ‘30s.

So, I went home that afternoon thinking I would do just that – write a column suggesting it was indeed time to ease up a bit on the pandemic protocols. People were going stir crazy cooped up in their homes. They needed at least a small break from their tedium and imprisonment. No cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Cranbrook and not a single death in the Interior Health region which stretches from the Alberta border to Bella Coola. Now was obviously the time for a break.

Was I ever wrong!

Later that very day, the first COVID -19 death in the Interior Health region was reported in Kelowna, a 69-year-old man who died a month after returning from a vacation in Turkey.

Okay, that was tragic, but that was still only one death in a vast area in a city far from Cranbrook. Of course, I don’t need to tell you what happened next – the first COVID -19 infection reported by Interior Health at the new Golden Life Kootenay Street Village facility only a day later.

All that has been reported so far (Friday) is that it was a staff member at the new 36-bed seniors’ facility being completed on Kootenay Street and not a resident. But given all the other COVID -19 deaths at nursing homes in B.C. and across Canada, and for that matter, around the world, it was a stark reminder that the pandemic was far from over yet and we must all be vigilant.

That’s certainly discouraging news, but we’ve all got to face up to it whether we like it or not. And I have to admit I don’t like it and I’ve been less than perfect at observing the COVID -19 health protocols myself in that I go out for groceries regularly, take short car drives to relieve the boredom and so far haven’t worn a mask.

But in my defence, I have to say I’ve seen many other Cranbrookians doing the same thing and not being arrested for it. I can also say I’m washing my hands incessantly and avoiding, as the Prime Minister said, speaking “moistly” near anyone and making an honest effort to stay at least six feet away from anyone I encounter. I do have a mask and I’ve decided to wear it now when I go out for groceries.

What the hell else can a guy do?

However, I do this because as the public health officials say we’re in the middle of a world-wide pandemic that so far numbers more than 2.2 million confirmed cases and 150,000 deaths with both numbers climbing daily. You can’t sit back and do nothing in a calamity like this. Without a vaccine to use, the three most important medical deterrents available are social distancing, self-isolation and mega handwashing. Wearing a mask helps to a degree, but opinion is divided on that and testing to trace infections vitally important but the capacity to test is limited.

Despite this, many are saying, especially in the US under the deranged leadership of President Trump, that the economic fallout from COVID -19 is becoming more critical than the disease itself. “The cure is worse than the disease,” these callous capitalists say. Of course, the economy cannot be ignored but anyone who’d put human life before dollars should be consigned to the deepest part of Dante’s inferno. Long may they burn!

Finally, I noticed Canada had its first COVID -19 physician death on April 16; a 44-year-old Quebec doctor. He joins more than 60 physicians who have died treating COVID-19 in Italy and hundreds more around the world. The pandemic has killed 1,511 Canadians as of April 18 and almost half of these deaths have been seniors, many of them in horrific conditions in understaffed nursing homes.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic over? Not on the life you’re lucky to be living and we must continue the battle no matter what the cost.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who believes no civilized society would put profits before saving lives.

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