Are we not learning the lessons of COVID-19?

The big news this week is the reopening of the economy in Ontario into stage 3. A large part of the reopening is permitting businesses, particularly restaurants and bars to serve up to 50 people at a time inside their establishments. All while maintaining social distancing guidelines of course.

The sentiment across the board is decidedly mixed:

The cautionary tones is most due to the fact that in every jurisdiction around the world where restrictions were lifted, we saw a spike in case numbers. In Hong Kong, once a model of how to handle the pandemic, they are closing down cinemas and restaurants again. As well in California, which was one of the only states to impose strict measures to confront COVID-19, they are handling a resurgence. Forcing the governor there, to reimpose the measures they only recently lifted. The lesson is clear, COVID-19 remains an unwelcome guest no matter where we are. Reopening your economy leads to increase in case numbers.

As we reopen the economy, we need to ensure that the public has confidence in it. Simply saying, we’re open now, go about your business is not sufficient. As I said before, we need new regulations using our existing systems to enforce them. Public health can easily be included into enforcement of social distancing standards in restaurants and public spaces. They already do it, in regards to inspections for food safety and cleanliness in restaurants. As well as checking for capacity limits as part of fire codes. It’s of course not possible to do every business in the start of of reopening. However public health and fire departments don’t need to be an omnipresent force. The knowledge in the business community just needs to be that inspections can happen at any time. That’s how the model works now, and it works really really well. Knowledge that at any time inspections could happen will ensure that restaurants, bars and other small businesses are properly encouraging adherence to the new norm.

This of course leaves the other elephant in the room. The education system. The inconsistencies which about as we reopen the economy have not abated. Why are social circles limited to 10 people, yet we are told to send our children to classrooms of 15 strangers? We can hangout in a bar full of 50 people but classrooms are limited to 15 students. Yes those are two contradictory statements, however that is sort of my point. It is literally a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Inconsistency seems to be the model of the day. Let alone the fact that for a majority of parents in Ontario, its becoming more and more apparent that they will have to choose one parent to stay home while the other returns to work.

As the province reopens step by step, questions pop up that the Ford government refuses to answer. Instead, passing the buck down the line to municipalities or school boards. This has to stop. It doesn’t build the confidence in the economy that is needed to fuel the recovery. It merely increases confusion and complacency. It’s clear that COVID-19 is indeed going to change the way we interact, socially as well as economically or a very very long time.

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