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StephenVance 270Strap in folks, we are all in for a rough month ahead.

There is no way to sugar-coat the experience we are going to endure, though many with all the the best intentions will attempt to do so, but the reality is this – the next four weeks are likely to be brutal.

All of our levels of government are working frantically as they try to minimize the impact of the fast-spreading COVID-19, and the only real way to try to contain this crisis is to impose unfamiliar and drastic restrictions on our movements – we've all heard the pleas to stay home, and many of us have done our best to adhere to that order. But we humans don't always like being told what to do, and so some have not followed the social distancing instructions, opting instead to gather together in large numbers and with little distance. As a result, we have seen our prime minister say “Enough is enough”, and more stringent orders from above have been directed at us.

The early days of this period of self-isolation and social distancing might have seemed a little too easy given the wealth of parks and natural beauty that surrounds us. Those of us that are able have been working from home, but that isn't possible for many, so a large number of us have been in our homes, unable to go work due to the shut-downs. But no matter our situation, we had the ability and opportunity to get outside every now and then to walk the dog, or simply enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.

But Ontarians are now being told that the parks are closed as are many of the hiking trails, and we are to stay home except to venture out for essentials like groceries and medications. We have also been ordered to not gather in groups of more than five people (while still maintaining two metres distance of course), so now, with very likely a month of this ahead of us and possibly more, we will truly be tested.

Don't get me wrong, there are no complaints coming from this scribe, as I think the measures that have been (and will be) implemented are what is needed to minimize the impact of this virus on our communities, but the reality is that it won't be easy at all.

Initially this coronavirus was seen by most of us as a health crisis an ocean away, and it has quickly become clear that it is not only a health crisis for the entire world, but this invisible virus is also destroying economies, and taxing the sanity of all who have been under lockdown orders for weeks and even months at this point.

The news we saw coming out of China just a couple of months ago was heart-wrenching, but just weeks later what we all saw happening in Italy was perhaps spirit-crushing. Here is a nation that is not some demonized communist nation, not an impoverished third world country, but an advanced nation, a loved and respected nation by many that, pure and simple, has been going through hell. And it can happen here too, which is why we are having so many restrictions placed upon us at this time.

We might be forgiven if we were tempted to take some comfort in the relatively few cases that have been identified in our neck of the woods. As I write this column on Tuesday morning, in Grey-Bruce we have seen just 11 cases of COVID-19 thus far, but as we have seen in other places that can change very quickly, so we all need to be staying home and staying away from others.

Though we are currently eyeing the end of April, we don't actually know how long this crisis will last, and in fact, even after we are given the green light to 'return to normal' very little will be normal. Many, and I do mean many, businesses will have been destroyed, unemployment numbers will be dizzying, and many lives will have been crushed whether they ever came in contact with the virus or not.

I don't normally get overly gloomy on this page, but we have to face reality on this one – it has only just begun for us here in Grey-Bruce. And whether the number of COVID-19 cases in our area explodes or remains relatively small and contained, the damage to our economy is not likely to be avoided no matter what we do.

Even here at The Independent we don't know how we will fare if we make it through this. Community newspapers everywhere were already struggling, already on life-support prior to this crisis, and this little virus might just be enough to crush the rest of us. When you have been operating on the margins for a decade and then you lose 80 percent of your advertising overnight, the odds of survival are slim, but we are going to give it everything we've got to keep this paper going, and my thoughts are with every business owner who is currently agonizing over the future of their own business.

The hurt will be extensive, and it will be significant, and our world is going to look a little different when this is all over.


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