The Plague-Ground – What We Didn’t Know

Today is 13 weeks exactly since millions of us were told not to come back to our offices and stay home.

Three months exactly. One quarter of the year exactly. A quarter of the fiscal.

A season of the year.

On Friday, March 13th, Jean and I packed our car and headed north to our cottage where we are today. We’re lucky to have this second home, though we never imagined we would use it to flee from danger. We left Toronto because we’re old: Jean is 77 and I’m 70. Prime targets for this particular pandemic.

I remember hearing Donald Trump on the radio on the way up to Thunder Beach.

He’d just announced that Google was launching a website so Americans could assess if they needed a coronavirus test and that they could get that test by driving through the parking lots of Target and Walmart stores.

Those were the days, eh?

Exactly 90 days later, America is the world leader by a very long shot in the number of people infected with COVID-19 (2 million) and killed by it (114,000).

And that’s not the half of it. The other half, of course, is the explosion of concern around race.

Meanwhile, here in Canada, no one knew then that 80% of the COVID-19 deaths would come from long-term care facilities, or that those ‘homes’ were so disgracefully funded and run.

Who knew back then that Doug Ford would turn out to be a reasonable guy?

Or that our other politicians and public health leaders would lead us to a ‘pretty good’ response?

Who knew that Britain would botch its pandemic response so badly, or that New Zealand be the first to report “no new cases?” Or that Brazil’s President would solve the pandemic by taking down information on infections and deaths?

Who knew 90 days ago that working from home would rival working from work?

That avoiding people would be the social imperative? That airlines would pretty much cease flying and bicycles would become as hard to source and buy as hand sanitizer and toilet paper?

No one knew any of this 13 weeks ago.

But those huge changes are nothing compared to the 7.6 billion changes in the 7.6 billion of us who are alive today. Because the other thing we didn’t know is that we are living through the first truly universal experience in . . . forever?

Each of us has been changed in ways we came to know instantly and ways we won’t know for months or years. Some of these are good, like having more time at home with the kids. Others are challenging, like having more time at home with the kids.

Someone once said, “The future enters us long before it happens.” Well, in this case, the future forced its way into us on March 13 and started changing us right away.

At various times since March, I’ve been anxious, calm, grasping and grateful.

In those early days, I’d sleep for 12 hours (gawd, when did that last happen?), and feel exhausted the entire next day. It seems I was reacting to the massive unknown threat. Now that I know what the threat is, I no longer sleep for 12 hours to avoid it.

The next quarter begins tomorrow and ends on Friday, September 11th.

In other words, 9/ll.

An oddly appropriate date.

Another 13 weeks. Another season. Another quarter.

Let’s hope next time that we don’t have to look back and admit we knew so little about how we’d change so much this time.

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6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Ian Tuck says:

    We’re really suffering from the soft bigotry of low expectations here, though. If you assume the US is 10x the size of us, our numbers stop looking so fantastic. If we were 10x bigger, our # of cases would be almost 1,000,000, and our number of deaths would be 80,000. Not sure why we’re so smug about that. While I think we’ve done a serviceable job taking care of our citizenry that has been furloughed (CERB) and the small businesses that employ so many of them (CEWS, CEBA), our testing/tracking protocols *still* aren’t in place. I think Doug Ford bamboozled a few people with his cheesecake video, but now that the brief honeymoon has ended, he’s starting to remind us of who he was before this all started. The recently released video of the RCMP response to Chief Allan Adam flies in the face of the RCMP’s initial description of the event. I’m hoping that all of us here in Canada realize that the issues that the US is grappling with exist here, and that we can’t just gape in horror at events south of us and pretend that we don’t have serious lifting ahead of us to make our country better. “Peace, Order, and Good Government” is great, but it seems like we may have left some pretty important principles by the wayside, here.

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  2. Avatar
    Douglas Reid says:

    It’s a sobering reflection on the past few weeks indeed. The future seemed so long ago.

    But I part ways on the Doug Ford claim. Yes, he started out in a way that made more than a few of my acquaintance wonder, “Perhaps he isn’t just Trump-lite, and has a conscience?” But as the reopening of Ontario proceeded, independent of the science, and the Premier refused to release the names of his scientific advisors, the old Doug Ford is leaking out.

    Ask yourself this – does he care more about Bay St. cottagers craving their Muskoka fix, or the people who live in those communities who, by now, have mostly escaped the coronavirus’s ravages?

    Exactly. Follow the money, in other words. Public health mattered in the first few of these 13 weeks. But in the latter few, notice how the balance has shifted, ever subtly but quite significantly?

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