This COVID Wave was a Preventable Tragedy


Published on Downsview Advocate

Earthquakes are beyond human control and so are hurricanes Рbut the third COVID-19 wave was not that. A series of self-inflicted choices caused the third wave of COVID-19 cases in Ontario. Ontario’s government opened in-person classes too soon and did not consider paid sick leave until it was too late for many. Doctors lined up to warn us in February that a wall of sick patients would hit us in ICUs if we did that, and the government chose not to listen.

People line at Driftwood Community Centre for a vaccination pop up clinic organized by local groups like LOFT. (Photo credit: Heather McDonald)
People line at Driftwood Community Centre for a vaccination pop up clinic organized by local groups like LOFT. (Photo credit: Heather McDonald)

In both cases, opening in-class learning and the lack of paid sick leave, the provincial government chose to protect the economy over its citizens. Their thinking, in their own words, was that the economy could not endure a longer lockdown. What the experts knew then and what we all know now was the half measures taken by the government in Ontario were not enough to slow contagion. We were left with neither a more robust economy nor safe COVID measures. The entire sequence of unfortunate events was preventable and a useless waste of resources and human life, a true tragedy.

In truth, too many of the people making the decisions, the lobbyists and the big moneyed political influencers of the Conservative party, think that the economy is equivalent to Amazon and Walmart having healthy profit margins. The real economy comprises over 14.5 million Ontarians getting up every morning to go to work and school, commute, buy their daily bread, come home to their families and live their lives. Protecting that should have been job number one. Instead, our daily lives were relegated by lockdowns that were never deep enough to have a real, lasting impact. Those dying from COVID are the delivery drivers, factory workers, support workers and front-line workers who could not afford to stay home.

There are too many examples of other pathways that this Province could have taken for us to ignore that there were choices made that steered us in this direction. It is not just New Zealand and a few other countries that reduced COVID-19 to near zero. Not that far down the Trans-Canada Highway on the East coast, the infection rates are negligible, deaths have been rare, and their vaccination process has been better. In Nova Scotia, they have one website for all clinics, pharmacies and government vaccination sites. In Ontario, it feels like the Hunger Games for people to find information on how to get vaccinated.

The failures have been foreseeable. We do not, in this country, have people governing us that believe in government. They relegate their responsibilities to third parties and the private sector to build hospitals and provide health care. Things were no different during COVID. It is no wonder that family doctors were not recruited to hand out vaccines, but pharmacies were, when one of the key government staff making the decision is a former lobbyist for Shoppers Drug Mart. And in all of this, the Canadian Federal government seemingly had no active role beyond shopping for vaccines in the international market.

As soon as Biden got elected in the US, the Federal government instituted a wide-ranging rollout of emergency vaccination sites. Federal money paid for it and Federal staff organized it. The vacuum in Ontario is only a symptom of the distance from Ottawa in our daily lives. Small government as an idea, has made it unimaginable for the people who govern Canada to think that they had a responsibility to play in the emergency of a generation. In the end, there was no big Canadian flag flying over-vaccination clinics in places like the Driftwood Community Centre. The job was left up to community organizations and volunteers to work out how to vaccinate us in this community.

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