Getting the feeling we squandered the summer

It’s been quite a week. It’s also been quite a re-opening. We are one month into the back to school season here in Ontario. It’s apparent from our daily numbers, we are in a second wave. Most recent news states that we have surpassed 500 daily cases. With that, we also received word that criteria for school children to be required to get a COVID-19 test has been loosened.

Our leadership is presenting conflicting messaging. Prime Minister Trudeau thought it prudent to take to the airwaves to warn us that Thanksgiving won’t be spent with family. A few hours later, Premier Doug Ford says Thanksgiving should be fine as long as people limit to their 10 person social bubble. This week, the Toronto Public Health officer declared, social bubbles no longer work now that our children are back in school. The Premier himself is inconsistent. Declaring hefty fines for violators of large gathering prohibitions. However, after a two clear violations, one in Ancaster at a car rally and a second in Brampton at a house party. No fines have been issued.

There is a clear atmosphere in this province of our leadership making this up as they go. A return to school plan was rushed out, despite being told that one was being developed as early as June. Parents and teachers were forced to decide between an unproven online learning format or crowded classrooms. Across the province we’re seeing outbreaks appear in schools. Along with that, a huge back log in cases, mostly related to back to school protocols that are forcing parents to take their children in for testing for what seems to be every childhood illness on the book.

The result has been a chaotic and incoherent approach to this second wave. What has been frustrating about this, is that we knew this was coming. Doctors and scientists since March were telling provincial and federal leaders, expect a second wave to hit us sometime in the fall. Our leaders in a panicked rush, shut down the economy. We were told to stay in, don’t socialise, and don’t go to work. The economy was hit hard and we were plunged into a new life with COVID-19. We had to learn quick and on the fly.

No one is criticising, the provincial or federal government for shutting down back in March. It is understandable as well, the desire to loosen restrictions over the summer and allow Canadians to enjoy the seasons great weather. For our economic and mental health well being. However, while we were all enjoying beers on patios, our leaders should’ve been working hard on their Zoom calls planning how an economy functions in a pandemic.

A lynch pin to this plan, ought to have been communication. Ministries of Education and Health should be speaking from the same play book. Instead we seem to be operating with multiple plans. A plan for back to school, where classrooms are capped at 25 and crowded desks are the norm. A plan for restaurants and retail, allowing people to socialise inside establishments with up to 50. Another plan for our social lives, allowing us to gather in groups of 10 indoors, or 50 on our front lawns or back yards. All of these contradict each other, and muddies our understanding of what we need to do to beat this pandemic.

It leads one to conclude that our provincial leadership were not consulting each other. Each ministry seemed to devise their own plan without reference to each other to ensure they did not contradict each other. Furthermore, it leads us to conclude that the provincial government is making this up as they go. Not willing to make the hard decisions to keep us all safe and permit an economy to function under new regulations. Closing down the economy was easy, lifting restrictions was easy, making a plan to live and thrive with COVID-19 is difficult. It requires imagination and fortitude to lead. Something I’m worried our leadership is lacking as we navigate this second wave.

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