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400 days into the pandemic - now what?

Originally published on May 28, 2021 -

By the time you read this, we would be more than 400 days into the pandemic that sent the province of Ontario into a tailspin. During this time, many have experienced unprecedented levels of stress, loss, doubt, mistrust, chaos, misinformation, and discomfort. Others, unfortunately, have not been so lucky. As of May 2, more than 8,000 people have died because of COVID-19. The World Health Organization describes a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” Pretty simple and straightforward statement.

In Ontario, the lockdown started as the only way to flatten the curve. Simply put, Ontarians were told to stay at home, shutter their businesses and practice physical distancing to ensure hospitals did not get overwhelmed. However, as the virus wore on, the lockdown became synonymous with restricted personal freedom and civil rights. Tired of wearing masks, physical distancing, and everything else associated with the lockdown. Businesses were withering on the vine for lack of customers.

However, there are many people who were suffering even before the pandemic began. Statistics show that about 22 per cent of the people in our province, or about 2 million of your neighbours and friends, were already facing significant barriers to health and well-being. Who are these people? They are the people struggling with poverty and homelessness. People who do not have health insurance. Seniors who live alone and new immigrants. People in racialized and minoritized communities. People struggling with mental health and migrant workers.

These people may not have a voice on social media to speak about their struggles. They may not have the wherewithal or resources to lobby their municipal, provincial, and federal governments for help. Their struggles and suffering are exacerbated by the pandemic. While the pandemic has exposed the flaws in our health system, it has also highlighted the need for us to establish strong, vibrant, and equitable communities.

Someone wrote “anyone arguing about one to two per cent of the population dying isn’t a big deal needs to identify one or two family members they are willing to offer up.” Striving for equity does not mean saving every single person. Inasmuch as many people dream of such an idealist utopia we are not there yet. It does, however, mean ensuring that they all have equal access to what is necessary to give them a chance to survive and thrive. Small purposeful steps toward a greater ideal.

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