Throughout the many long months of this pandemic, there has been plenty of time for reflection, and there have been many lessons to learn. None of us has experienced a global pandemic such as this in our lifetimes, and as frustrating and indeed downright depressing as life has been over the past 12 months, if anything good is to come out of this ordeal, it is likely to be lessons learned.
Here are five things I have learned or confirmed during this pandemic:
1 ~ We were all unprepared, our governments included
In the early days of this pandemic we knew far less than we do today. What we knew was that a highly contagious and deadly virus was heading our way. We had all seen the horrors reported in the news from Europe, which began its battle with the virus weeks before it arrived on our shores. Consumers in Canada flocked to grocery stores to stock up on essentials, particularly cleaning supplies, toilet tissue, flour and other baking supplies and so on. For weeks afterward many shelves were bare, something most of us had only ever seen in news footage from far away, less fortunate lands.
Our federal and provincial governments were also not prepared. Early messaging was confusing to many, and governments at all levels scrambled to implement measures aimed at ensuring our hospitals didn’t become overwhelmed. Some of those measures made sense, others not so much, and I suspect that when we conduct a postmortem on our response to this pandemic we will determine that the early response should have been more bold, more assertive, and we likely should have bit the bullet early on with a nationwide lockdown. That said, hindsight is 20-20, and I don’t pretend to be an expert, so I look forward to the future studies into what we did right, and what we did wrong.
2 ~ It’s true, no man is an island… we need each other more than we might think
As independent as any of us might think we are, this pandemic has highlighted how connected we are; so connected that we could be a danger to someone else simply by standing too close. Viruses like this spread because we are so interconnected, but something else we have seen spread throughout this pandemic is community spirit and the basic human trait of wanting to help others. As the pandemic dragged on, neighbours helped neighbours, and even strangers helped strangers, whether it was delivering some groceries, or simply checking in on elderly neighbours who live alone, an added challenge during a pandemic that requires lockdowns and stay at home orders.
3 ~ We need to push for a living wage for all, and paid sick days for all workers
If you want to quash a virus quickly, you must ensure that people will be paid if they need to stay home because they are ill. Those without the benefit of paid sick days are far more inclined to head into work when they aren’t feeling well, putting the entire workforce at risk. During this pandemic we have seen folks required to isolate for 14 days if they became ill, or if they had come in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. Asking people to stay home for two weeks without pay is simply unacceptable. Paid sick days should be a ‘no brainer’ after what we have experienced over the past year, and I would suggest that ensuring that all have a living wage should also be high on our list of future considerations. We shouldn’t be implementing temporary raises for essential workers, they should be paid a living wage to begin with.
4 ~ Many of us could easily be working from home
At the onset of this pandemic many employers quickly adjusted and had those employees who could work from home do so, and I suspect that the experience will force some discussion about the benefits of working from home even some of the time. Not everyone can work from home of course, but enough of us can that, if it became a regular practice, we might have seen an easier transition when stay at home orders were issued. Not to mention, fewer people crammed into an office means fewer people to infect should the virus arrive on the office doorstep.
5 ~ Misinformation can kill
From the very beginning of this global pandemic the conspiracy theorists and folks with Facebook medical degrees and Twitter science degrees got to work spreading lies and misinformation, claiming the virus was a hoax, or that it was some grand government conspiracy, or that the world’s billionaires were conducting some grand experiment. At every turn there has been push-back to proposed measures, with some objecting to being asked to wear a face mask with claims that they don’t work, or that they are harmful to our health. The misinformation during this pandemic has been constant, and it has been relentless, and in a global pandemic that can cost lives.
It has been a year of frustration to be sure, but hopefully we can all learn some lessons that might make life a lot easier should we ever be faced with this situation again.