As we spiral deeper into this pandemic crisis we have to wonder out loud at what point will the pain caused by shutdowns and social distancing outweigh the suffering and death that will be caused by the disease. This is not to make light of the disease or anyone that has suffered or perished from it. We’ve been wondering this from the start but gladly went along with our government’s recommendation. We shut down our offices and we’re working from home well before the government mandated it.
But as we go further down this rabbit hole many issues are becoming more apparent. The first that springs to mind is that a lot of decisions were made on very limited and insufficient data. Collectively we are still not sure what the fatality rate of COVID-19 is. Canada is even further behind this curve as our testing is lagging many of our counterparts. Countries with larger testing sample sizes are showing fatality rates that are fractions of ours and Italy’s. The media frenzy of gurney beds in Italy and China have caused a certain level of hysteria and fear which the media seems to be feeding on. Apparently our hospitals are still waiting for this surge. In our opinion the media seems to be rooting for the disease and the despair that will follow it. Perhaps a responsibility check is warranted.
Another issue that springs to mind is that health care capacity needs to grow in lock step with population growth (organic or immigration based). Or to that end an updated immigration policy is constructed. Perhaps with adequate capacity mass lock downs could have been avoided.
The most contentious issue is that of lives and specifically lives saved. We (Canada) are grasping at straws here. Similar to seat belts, we will never know how many lives were saved by the actions we took. But governments globally have made the same decision that the immediate pain of death from the Coronavirus outweighs the pain caused by the death and social unrest that might follow in an extended recession. A prolonged recession will uproot families, cause increased rates of heart disease, cancer, suicide, divorce, hunger, malnutrition, substance abuse and so on (and on). We can’t flatten that curve when it comes.
For us it is also apparent that at some point we are all essential workers. The government can’t continue to pay us to stay home indefinitely while every industry suffers and declines. Eventually the government will run out of money and support. Every last tax dollar was already accounted for prior to this event. Government workers aren’t the only ones that need to work. They are dependent on us entirely for their existence.
Some very difficult policy decisions need to made. Lives now or lives later. It’s really that simple. Real courage and leadership will be required and quite frankly I’m not sure we have it here. We are not eradicating COVID-19 on this go around. Which means it will reappear in recurring waves. What then? Epidemiologists are not economists and vice versa. But to listen to one (as we’ve done) over the other doesn’t sound wise or balanced. At some point every single worker in Canada (and elsewhere) is essential as is every life.