I’ve been tracking what bothers me since the third wave of COVID hit Ontario and other parts of Canada. In Ontario, it is causing more lockdowns and more shutdowns. Schools are closed again. People are both fearful and angry. Public Health advice is augmented with provinces invoking Emergency Measures Acts to issue ‘stay-at-home’ orders along with limitations on numbers allowed to gather either indoors or outdoors.
Readers outside of Canada may not be aware that the third wave of COVID, driven by easily transmissible variants of the virus, has resulted in sky-rocketing numbers of cases. In Ontario, hospitals are overwhelmed. ICUs (Intensive Care Units) are full to the point where Children’s Hospitals are now admitting adult patients to their ICU beds. Elective procedures are cancelled.
Warnings by doctors have been largely ignored by a government that tries to put economic well-being ahead of public health. After 14 months of lockdowns and restrictions, isn’t it time to acknowledge that health, safety, and well-being are forerunners of a strong economy?
Vaccines are available but supplies are limited. Canada relies on imports of vaccines as there is no domestic production. To date, the Government of Canada distributed available vaccines based on population percentages. Access to a vaccine is governed by provinces. Vaccine administration in Ontario has been based primarily on age with an initial focus on residents of long-term care/assisted living facilities. After those groups, priority access went to those over 80, then over 75, then over 70, and so on…….
Other than health care workers and first responders, essential workers have not been given priority. Nor has priority been given to people who live in high outbreak areas. Thankfully, Indigenous people in remote First Nations have been vaccinated.
Whether physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of these, pandemic fatigue during this third wave is striking most people. It shows itself as loss of energy, irritability, anxiety, negative thinking, or brain fog. Manifestations of pandemic fatigue affect children, adults, and elders. For some, it’s severe enough to show itself as clinical depression.
People are doing stupid things. Some ignore the rules and continue to travel. Others visit family and friends. A workman who was fixing our patio last week told me that “nobody is going to tell me that I can’t visit my mother — she’s more important than the government”. I wonder how he might feel if he spreads COVID to his mother?
In the third wave, people are also showing less tolerance for public health advice. Non-adherence is a demonstration of the anger and frustration many feel as the lockdowns drag on. Trust in government, typically fairly high in Canada, is eroding as people lose confidence in policies designed to curb the pandemic. People are tired of hearing the same admonitions about how to behave while politicians ignore medical and scientific recommendations.
The stress of increased restrictions takes a mental toll. Limiting social interactions has potential long-term effects. Levels of fear of illness, isolation at home, and increases in family tension are frequently cited as effects. Children, young adults, and parents of young children are especially vulnerable to the stress of isolation. Reports of domestic violence are in the news regularly.
Health care workers are coping with unprecedented levels of severe illness and death. On weekend newscasts, I heard several doctors speak of families where both parents were admitted to hospital. Their young children needed care with the result that Children’s Aid intervened to place the children in foster homes.
I worry about the overall health and robustness of my community. Thousands of businesses face the threat of permanent closure. Because most government assistance is in the form of loans rather than grants, some have taken on huge long-term debt.
I think of workers at my gym; I think of my hairdresser; I think of the small dry-cleaning shop in the mall; I think of my son’s friend who established a small business in 2019 but fears that it can’t survive the third closure. These are examples of the detrimental effects of the pandemic. Things won’t be the same in the post-pandemic era.
Even after having the vaccine, many people won’t feel comfortable resuming the activities and habits they took for granted before covid. Personally, I take some comfort with having received my first dose, but I take nothing for granted.
I know that the pandemic restrictions will end. When it’s safe to do so, I’ll be happy to resume some of my activities such as playing bridge with friends, going back to the gym and pool for exercise, and enjoying lunches and dinners at restaurants.
For 2021, I chose ‘ACCEPT’ as my word of the year. It’s become a mantra. My approach is to accept what’s happening in the third wave while making the most of each day by enjoying what’s available without dwelling on losses. Since I’ve had my rant by writing this post, I’ll take a deep breath, go for a walk, and do my best to stay positive!