We’re going into the last week of May, and I must admit it feels strange to think that we are. It does because that means we’re almost in June, which will be the fourth month that we have been fighting against Covid-19. Go back to January, and I don’t think many people thought we would have found ourselves in a situation like this, for so long, with the full knowledge that we’re not out of the woods yet.
Yet that is precisely where we find ourselves today, as the summer months come, and the beautiful weather starts. It was admittedly easier to stay inside and do what we had to when it was snowy and cold outside, but regardless of the degree of difficulty involved, we did because it had to be done. And as we did, we would gaze with a critical eye at those who decided to ignore the reality slapping us in the face. We’d look down at those people, given the title of “Covidiots” and judge. Most of that judgement went to our southern neighbours, not something that was unfair. I mean, look at this video example from just yesterday:
It’s a long weekend there and you see the partying, the total lack of physical distancing and all the dangers that come with the behaviours we see there. But we just got through a long weekend ourselves and you didn’t see the kind of usual gatherings or such here that we normally would. The vast majority of us got it, changed and sucked it up. It wasn’t fun, not what we’d like most to do, but we did it for the greater good. But going forward I’m starting to fear that we might need to start referring to that unanimity in the passed tense, because at the same time that video from the US was playing out, here is what we saw in Toronto:
Yep, that was Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto yesterday afternoon. Not much of a difference there between that video and the other video above from the Ozarks. It’s the same dangerous behaviour, the same disregard for public health and the same potential awful consequences. We’re well into month three of this global pandemic so none of those people can legitimately say “Well, I didn’t know any better”. Ignorance of the facts is never an excuse, but I would argue that’s not what we saw in that park yesterday, and that’s the scary part.
We’re entering a dangerous phase of this pandemic and that scene from Toronto is a great illustration of that danger. I feel very safe in saying that most of the people in that park knew the dangers and risks, not just to themselves but to everyone else. They knew and frankly, they didn’t give a damn. All that mattered was that it was a beautiful day and after a few months of having to stay inside and away from people, damn it they were going to enjoy the nice weather. They were going to get out, enjoy themselves and to heck with the potential consequences.
And those consequences are very real, as we’re seeing the number of Covid-19 cases rise again in Ontario, but Toronto specifically. As things slowly start to re-open and some let their guards down, we’re starting to see numbers go up again. And it’s fair to assume that if we continue to let this slide like this, we’ll be in a worse position than the one we fought so hard to try to prevent for the past few months.
While that danger should be enough to get people not to do stuff like we saw on Saturday, the increasing danger that we face from this is fatigue from these efforts, combine with warm summer weather and a time of year that many Canadians normally get outside and get away. And in my view, this is where the rubber will really start to hit the road when it comes to our fight against this disease. To date a lot of our response has depended on the good will and willing acceptance of what needed to be done. While governments have close schools, certain workplaces and community facilities, they didn’t have to really force it because it was widely accepted as the right thing to do. And it was.
But now we seem to be entering a phase where more and more people are pushing back against the boundaries of the measures that are in place. They are not the “Covidiots” denying there is a problem or crying conspiracy. They are people trying to navigate through this maze of evolving rules while deal with some of the basics of being human. We’re social beings, most of us naturally want to be around others and this has been hard for many on that front. It’s been a hard-enough balance to make through out this, but it’s made even harder now that you add the factor of summer coming fast.
That pressure will create situations like we saw yesterday, and we will continue to see them use governments step up in this moment. Early in this pandemic I pointed out that when some talk about our rights as Canadians, they always seem to leave out the other part of that equation, the responsibilities that come with those rights. We have a responsibility to not put others at risk and endanger public health, that’s not a controversial thing to suggest and any individual rights we have don’t trump that.
In our society when we have people who aren’t upholding those responsibilities, there are laws in place to deal with that, with enforcement & recriminations required to support them. So far, most governments haven’t needed to lean on those measures but it’s starting to feel like it might be necessary. If there is no enforcement of these measures, no punishments for flaunting them, then more and more people will ignore them, which will put more lives at risk. Those are the stakes we face and if yesterdays scene in Toronto has shown us anything, without enforcement of these rules people will try to behave like the old normal.
We have to accept that as much as we might want it, the old “normal” of our lives isn’t coming back anytime soon and honesty likely won’t come back at all. You already see businesses and governments changing not just for the short term, but making longer-term changes based on lessons they’ve learned in this crisis. You can’t go through such a massive event like this and not have things be changed in big ways. What I saw yesterday was a prime example of people not accepting that the “old normal” is gone. That’s something we need to change because whatever the “new normal” looks like, it can allow for us to get outside and enjoy that summer weather too. Because if we don’t, there will have to be more changes. It’s time to double down on our responsibilities to one another because if we don’t there will likely be other changes to come that those folks will like even less.