With Baited Breath

Common Dreams Despite Our Political and Social Divide

I’ve been wearing a mask since early in this pandemic, well before face coverings were made mandatory. I’m not patting myself on the back. My wife had already been doing it. I dreaded the thought of wearing a mask for reason’s not dissimilar to others mindsets in these regards, including the ability to breathe easy. I quickly followed my wife’s lead and after nine months of wearing masks, breathing has not been an issue.

Following other’s lead, watching the news, reading the paper, and social conversations, have all been ways my opinion’s and health practices have shifted this year, leading me to a place where I am even ready to pop on a mask walking through a busier shopping corridor like Ottawa Street while exercising with my dog.

With Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor-Essex all in lockdown, and Hamilton into its third week of waiting with baited breath to see if we might find ourselves in a similar circumstance, the province is slowly moving into lockdown region by region.

There has been talk about forcing the entire province into grey for two weeks over the holidays, with leaders, including Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, calling for a GTA-wide shutdown citing region-hopping and aggregate cellphone data showing that people are shopping, dining, and visiting friends and families in other regions.

No one gets pizza day because of a couple of clowns. I’ve talked a little about my opinion on this form of punishment from an educational lens, but of course it’s not an uncommon way of dealing with many issues our society faces.

Hamilton has seemingly avoided the fate of a lockdown thus far because we have implemented further restrictions on malls, stores, and workplaces ourselves these past couple of weeks, but our numbers continue to rise. We also know that lockdown or not, we are still seeing cases escalate in cities like Toronto.

Is it safe to say that those who are going to take the precautions seriously, following the guidelines, wearing masks, social distancing, etcetera, are doing so, and after nine months of opportunities to see how our decisions affect our neighbours, others are not going to change their practices or beliefs?

So how does a lockdown prevent our numbers from rising then because surely the small percentage that we seek to protect ourselves and our critical care beds from with a lockdown, are going to have big parties with their families, go to their barber’s homes, and region hop while opportunity exists?

I get that we cannot do nothing and that the pressure is there from the community, health officials, and local politicians to shut us down, but have we taken all the measures we can or at least that are within our political purview to control at a municipal level?

It was just announced that the province has taken over Grace Villa, a local private for-profit long-term care home,  so there is hope that Hamilton Health Sciences will be able to rein in the disaster that has seen 118 residents at an 184 bed home and 59 staff, infected with COVID19, including 20 deaths thus far. This is certainly a step in the right direction in an effort to cool our COVID caseload here in Hamilton, but it is my hope that the threshold for taking over a long-term care home that is seeing rising numbers be reduced substantially moving forward.

We hear commercials on the radio, watch media updates, or catch local municipal council meetings, where they stress the importance of being vigilant in an effort to avoid a lockdown, yet outbreaks like the one at Grace Villa are out of the control of those of us without loved ones in these facilities. Instances of infection at places of business or worship who are not heading warnings or following the rules put in place to protect us all, are also out of many of our hands.  Any sense of normalcy for the rest of us, is left to their control.

There surely are also some opinions on the way we report our numbers, including getting notified about certain cases in our kid’s school when the fact of the matters is, that those remote learners are tied to the physical school on paper only. Why are we including these numbers in our school caseloads when the story that data tells is misleading? How else is data telling the wrong tale?

What are some other measures we could put into place to avoid a lockdown? Why aren’t we asking for ID at stores to restrict out of town and perhaps even out of postal code shopping, when we look more granularly at Hamilton’s COVID data by census tract?

Why don’t we put some teeth into the COVID app and require the app be scanned when entering anywhere from a local merchant to a place of employment? Require that everyone sign the COVID screening on the days you leave the home for shopping, work, exercise, etc., which would also save time and resources for smaller retail outlets. Have the testing centres scan everyone’s app when a test is administered, and have those centres populate the app’s with the results – removing an honor system when people’s lives, housing, and food supplies lie in the balance. The Team app seems to have handled daily COVID screening well for sports organizations. Would such an app help us rein in the 147 out of 544 business visited, found to have been breaking the rules? Make it so that the app can only be scanned every half an hour or so, to prevent businesses owner’s from scanning their own app in an effort to match the number of app scans-to- sale transactions? For now, take names and numbers like parents were required to do at hockey arenas when we were in the yellow zone.

There has been much ado about a letter CF Limeridge Mall put out indicating that they are extending mall hours in an effort to spread out shopping hours to ease the likely influx of out of town shoppers coming from locked down zones. I am not angry that a mall is open for an hour earlier in the morning because is an extra 60 minutes really the problem? I am more concerned that we as a city or a province, aren’t taking measures into our own hands to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 from region to postal code. There is no reason for me to shop at Limeridge when I have Eastgate, or Canadian Tire on Rymal Road when there is one at The Centre, or a need to go to Starbucks on Upper James when we have The Cannon on Ottawa Street.

With postal code limitations on shopping, could that mean restrictions could further be targeted to avoid a one size fits all type of closing of services? Is it really fair that Flamborough and Dundas face the same restrictions as Ancaster, Binbrook and Lower Stoney Creek? Amalgamation has already not been without its sword fights, and surely COVID restrictions are only further dividing warring bedfellows.

In an effort to find a middle ground even on COVID health guidelines themselves, why aren’t we considering things like reducing our quarantine periods and subsequently reducing the length of time we remain in a zone before we have an opportunity to move up? Perhaps from 28 days to say 14.

The CDC recently stated that although 14 days is still the ideal quarantine period, 10 days without testing or symptoms would mean there is a 1% chance a person is not clear from COVID, and 7 days with a negative test and no symptoms, brings those odds to 5%. 28 days is a long time to be left with no hope for a light at the end of the tunnel over months of already short, dark, cold days. Why not find middle ground in an effort to encourage more to follow these restrictions?

I might be grabbing at straws here but by doing something these past few weeks, we seemed to have given the province a reason to keep us open when shutdowns are otherwise proving to not be the answer to lowering case numbers.

From Hamilton.ca as of Dec 17th 2020

If lockdown’s aren’t working, what are alternative measures that can be put into place in an effort to adopt a less ‘cancel the school trip’ attitude to addressing the root problem?

As I have stated in previous articles, I am someone who values all opinions no matter how far they sway from my own, as long as we put others mental and physical health at the forefront of our actions.

Be safe and mindful that just because I am wearing a mask to protect others, doesn’t mean we don’t share some very significant dreams in common from keeping small businesses afloat and people working, ensuring our kids are able to enjoy some activities for their mental and physical well-being and most of all, the ability to spend time with our families and to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and the lives of those we’ve lost.

If we all want the same things in the end, we have to find some common ground and work together to ensure these shared dreams can be realized.

For decision makers, is grounding us all because our brothers and sisters aren’t following the rules and not admitting to it, the answer because to me, it just seems to be creating more anger and division and yet still not achieving the desired outcome.

The answer, whatever that may be, can only be found when we come together. Not further divide.

And that’s The Point.

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