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StephenVance 270As the country-wide quarantine drags on, thanks to a virus we had never heard of until mere weeks ago, we are all frustrated and we all want this to be over.

All of our lives have been impacted in some way, and for some the impact has been much greater than others. The past two months have been crushing for business, particularly small businesses and any business not identified as 'essential'. Some businesses will not survive, while others will, though they might need a significant amount of time for true recovery.

Our children continue to miss school, and the Premier announced this week that the school closures will be extended until the end of May, though parents have been assured that students will be able to complete the year.

Families have been disrupted during this pandemic. Visits to residents of long-term care centres ground to a halt, funerals, weddings, and any other sort of celebration has been cancelled or put on hold. First-time mothers have given birth to their babies in relative isolation, without doting grandparents with huge smiles and tears in their eyes, for fear of transmitting the virus.

In recent weeks we've been unable to shop where and when we would like, we've been barred from gathering at a family restaurant on a Saturday morning, and numerous events, some still as far away as the autumn months, have been cancelled. Live theatre and music along with large sports events might not fully return until next year, and when they do, the experience might feel a little different with new social distancing practices becoming the norm.

Our lives have been put on hold, and altered in numerous ways, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Governments are starting to talk about re-opening, they are planning to do just that. As with everything else related to this virus pandemic, there will be frustrations to come as we re-open our economy and our communities. I am certain that the re-opening of our economy won't happen quick enough for most of us, but as we have seen in other parts of the world which battled this virus before us, returning to normal is a slow process that can quickly go wrong should new hot spots develop.

I was chatting with someone earlier in the week who wondered why we in places like Grey-Bruce have to adhere to stay at home and social distancing orders when we have seen so few cases of the virus in our neck of the woods. I suggested that perhaps we have seen so few cases here because residents who already enjoy an advantage of living a rural life with a much lower density that our big city friends have done a good job of staying at home and distancing.

It is a little more difficult to appreciate the full impact of this virus in larger urban areas, where people are naturally packed more closely together, and where the number of cases has been far greater than what we have experienced in Grey-Bruce.

While we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, the reality is that once we get back to some sense of normalcy life will still be very different. We have seen many local events cancelled, including the annual quilt show at the United Church which always draws large crowds, and the Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival, which is likely the highest attended event in Meaford each year. With many events cancelled or postponed, while we might gain our freedom in the coming weeks, we will have less to do than we would have if not for this virus and the state of emergency it has caused.

Over the past week or two there has been much talk and speculation about a second wave of the virus once the summer is over, and that could very well happen. If it does, I suspect that we will benefit from all of the processes that we have seen put in place during this initial wave of the virus, and I would hope that will soften the blow if there is indeed a second wave.

We have much to learn still about this virus and whether it will continue to be a threat in the years to come, and there will be many questions about whether we handled this crisis well, if we over-reacted, or if we failed in some areas. Those conversations will be important, and I suspect they will be heated at times, but if anything we need to learn from this experience at all levels, and we need to ensure that we are better able to navigate the next virus, whether that be a return of COVID-19, or a completely new virus.

So, there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, but this ordeal is far from over, and we need to remember that as we inch our way back to some semblance of normal.


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