Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2021/ The Final Lockdown

The Final Lockdown

Last week, the provincial government announced another stay-at-home order. We are supposed to stay at home other than to get essentials, perform essential jobs, or get exercise. Our hospital ICUs are nearly full, to the point where they are shifting patients from one hospital to another so beds will remain available in COVID hotspots.

From what I can see, people are fed up. A newsletter I read linked to an angry Instagram post from a restaurant complaining that since restaurants don't cause COVID, they should be allowed to remain open. People on message boards I read are angry that the government seems to be flying by the seat of its pants. People remain confused and angry about schools being open. Meanwhile, the United States is doing a good job of vaccinating its citizens while our vaccination phases are prolonged, and clearly Canadians are feeling left out. One person I know even threatened to move to the US, which seems crazy to me given the past four years, but I guess if the USA does one thing correctly Canadians are willing to abandon ship?

Even as people are angry, it looks as if people are not taking this seriously. The stores that are supposed to be closed are remaining closed, although many are putting up snarky signs like "Ugh lockdown" or "Capacity 50... LOL Just Kidding". (I should have been taking pictures.) I guess businesses are taking this seriously to avoid fines, but I feel that regular citizens are playing fast and loose with the rules. There is lots of traffic on the streets. I was at the park and I saw a group of eight people get together to have a picnic, which is more people than is allowed by the rules.

And me? I am not complying either, I guess. I have been going out on bike rides to sit in parks and read my books, and I have been continuing to buy junk food at the junk food store too frequently. I do not feel great about this, but other than going to the junk food store I am staying away from people. I bet Doug Ford is not happy with me. I could (and should) cut down visits to the junk food store, but I strongly want to be outside.

I feel I should be treating the virus more seriously than I am. The so-called "variants of concern" are doing a number on people, and more young people are getting sick. I feel I should be as freaked out as I was last March, but I am not; mostly, I just want to be outside. Other people continue to freak me out, and I do not want to be near them, but that may be misanthropy as much as anxiety. I ought to be frightened; as I have written before I know people who were infected in the first wave and are long-haulers now.

I think many people are being good, but I do not know that enough people are being good. It does not take much of the population to socialize to fill up the remaining ICU beds, at which point there will be death panels to decide who lives and who dies. That is what is really at stake, and why the government is cracking down so hard right now. Of course, it may be too late -- with an incubation period of two weeks, there may already be enough infected people to overflow the ICUs. Maybe once we get reports of the ICUs overflowing and triaging taking place people will take the lockdown more seriously? Or maybe people will just be mad at Doug Ford?

I am glad that the government forced the big box stores to sell only essential goods this time around. That makes the lockdown a bit less unfair for smaller stores. I don't think there is any good solution for school policies; if you force schools online then poor kids fall further behind, and if you allow in-person classes then you increase the risk to students and teachers. At least now teachers qualify to get vaccinated, which is something.

I do not know that the Ontario government is handling the lockdown exceptionally well, but I honestly think they are trying to be pragmatic. I am real mad that they are slipping their developer-friendly agenda items into omnibus COVID legislation, but I think they are aware that they have to make tradeoffs between limiting ICU load and keeping the economy going. I would be curious to know how much Doug Ford is the decider here as compared to health minister Christine Elliott. I do think the government misstepped by putting on the "Emergency Brake" and then tightening things down a lot more one week later.

We are in a crisis situation now. Could it have been avoided? The critics say that the Ford government mishandled lockdowns and that David Williams has been ineffective. They say the government was warned that this third wave was coming, and that the new variants were going to be worse than the old ones. I guess this is plausible, but what would the strategy have been? Putting us into heavy lockdown from January until everybody had been vaccinated? Closing all schools? Mandating use of COVID-tracking/surveillance apps? Implementing COVID hotels where sick people go to avoid spreading the virus to their families?

I don't really have an answer here, and it is clear that I have not studied those countries that have handled COVID well. My guess is that more effective testing and isolation protocols could have helped, but that would not be enough in congregate settings like meat-packing plants and prisons (and schools?). I really want to know more about the circumstances under which the virus is spreading.

I titled this entry "The Final Lockdown" for two reasons. The positive reason is that vaccinations are finally happening, so in a few months maybe we will have herd immunity and this pandemic will be over. The negative reason is that I do not see how Ontarians will tolerate another lockdown like this -- especially as the weather gets nicer and people want to have patio parties. The anger from the business community is palpable, and the "NoMoreLockdown" signs are multiplying. If things are not measurably better in a few months I do not know what is going to happen.