We in Ontario have been on lock-down for more than two months now, and while we are beginning to see hope of a return to some sense of normal, we also continue to see new announcements of event cancellations. The virus aside, 2020 might very well be remembered for all the things we didn't get to do.
This COVID-19 pandemic has brought our society to a grinding halt. Our schools and libraries have been closed, access to our parents and grandparents in long-term care centres has been cut off, businesses have been forced to lock their doors, and those allowed to continue operation have done so with newly implemented measures aimed at maintaining distance between people, and keeping their employees safe. Millions are currently out of work, and many are uncertain about what the future will hold for them once we attempt to fire up the economy again.
Pre-COVID-19, most of us enjoyed a balance of work and play in our daily lives, but this pandemic has put a serious crimp in such lives of luxury. While we might have enjoyed a meal out at a restaurant after a long day of work, we have had to adapt, and hope that our favourite restaurants are able to accommodate take-out orders. Pre-COVID-19 we might have looked forward to volunteering with a local organization on a sunny Saturday, another outlet that we have been deprived of in recent weeks.
With each passing day, we receive more notices of event cancellations or long-term closures. We have seen announcements that major events like the Scarecrow Invasion and Summerfolk, both events to be held months from now, are cancelled, yet cancellation was deemed necessary given the enormous volunteer effort required in advance in order for such events to happen.
Over the past week I received notice that the popular Apple Harvest Craft Show has been cancelled for this year, as have Canada Day Celebrations in Bognor. We also recently learned that the Blue Dolphin Pool will not be open at all this summer, and it is unclear when any public swimming or exercise facility might reopen given the distancing measures that will be required.
I think it would be fair to say that nobody is enjoying this current situation. We all have a long list of things that we would much rather be doing than being trapped in our homes like grounded teenagers.
Most of us would be thrilled if all restrictions were removed tomorrow, and we could all get back to work, and get back to school, and get back to all of the things that we like to do, the things that make us interesting, the things that give us purpose. But most of us also realize that getting back to normal has to be done responsibly, and responsibility is often slow, and rarely fun.
When this ordeal is over, whatever that will look like, we will no doubt debate for years how we handled this pandemic.
We will debate if we went too far by closing parks and trails – valuable assets for mental and physical heath, and areas where physical distancing should prove incredibly easy. I don't think that many would argue that we should have been able to tackle this pandemic without banning people from taking a walk in the woods or launching their boats.
We will debate whether we should have shut down anything at all. I think the post-pandemic debate will see distinct camps – those who were comfortable with the measures taken, those who feel we didn't go far enough, and those who feel the response was a complete overreaction and we should never have locked a single door.
All of those voices should be heard and considered as we assess our response, and decide how we will respond to a similar situation in the future.
This virus has infected millions, and it has killed hundreds of thousands around the world. We have all heard the arguments about the flu and other infections that also kill large numbers of people without crippling world economies, but when it comes to the numbers we have to also see some data that might indicate how many lives were saved due to the measures implemented.
The issue is complex, and the debates will be equally so, but for now, we need to continue what we have been doing until the province gives us the green light to resume our lives and get back to normal.
Getting back to 'normal' however might not mean getting back to much fun, at least as we were accustomed to fun. Large gatherings, such as those you would see at sporting events or concert theatres, could be many months away. So ultimately we might indeed remember this year by all of the things we weren't able to do, thanks to an invisible but infectious and potentially deadly virus. On the bright side, the vast majority of us will have made it through this experience healthy and unscathed, and that is perhaps a victory that we might take years to appreciate.