Wednesday, March 31, 2021

COVID One Year In

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked, one Friday night not too long ago.

"Shaving my socks, obviously," replied Ana as she looked over briefly, then continued running the strangely shaped electric buzzing instrument over the fabric.

I didn't know socks needed shaving, like faces or lady legs. So I was perplexed. "Dare I ask why you are shaving your socks?"

"Do you have a better suggestion?"

I didn't. It was February. It was cold. And we were still in a damn pandemic lockdown.

"Our Friday nights used to be way better," I lamented as I discarded my jeans in favour of cozy pajama bottoms. It was 6:30pm. And dark already. I don't remember what happened after that, but if the preceding winter months were any guide, it involved a couch, a blanket, and a television.

This blog is a great indication of how dull life has been this winter. I haven't written anything here for seven months, which must be some sort of record for me. Normally I might have written about a weekend trip to Buffalo (sorry, border closed, neighbours infected), a January week in Cuba (sorry, two weeks of quarantine required, no can do), or perhaps even a modest trip to Quebec to visit my bro (no leaving the red zone, stay at home, avoid contact). I was thinking of writing a series of daily blogs about an imaginary trip we had taken somewhere exotic but then decided against it when I realized I was far too lazy, plus it would just be too punishing imagining it.

But now we're headed towards the end of March and life is looking much better indeed. Longer days, no more snow on the ground, warmer temperatures, vaccines arriving by the millions, Covid death rates way down, and a leader for our neighbours to the south that is focused on solving problems rather than creating unnecessary chaos in their country and around the world.

Despite my hollow, first world bellyaching, I do think it has been a valuable year. It has highlighted the fragility of life, the sensitivity of supply chains, the power of viruses, and the inability of most countries to respond fast enough to dangerous situations. It has also enabled many organizations and governments to explore better and more efficient ways of doing things. Sadly, many people have died. We can only hope that the lessons we've learned here will make our systems stronger and more resilient and allows us to prevent death in future pandemics or other disasters.

At this point last year, there was little optimism that developing a vaccine within a year was remotely possible. But it happened, and not just one vaccine, but many, thanks to the funding provided by governments, organizations, and companies, and the incredible work done by scientists and countries collaborating all around the world. It is an amazing achievement and gives me great hope that maybe, just maybe, we will have the collective fortitude to solve other big worldwide problems (any guess at which one comes to mind?)

Strangely, there seems to be many people who seem committed to not take a vaccine, despite overpowering evidence they are safe and effective. I've also realized there is little point in trying to sway the opinions of such people as they tend to approach the subject as more of a religion or belief than a decision to be made. I think this is the result of a long time cultural shift to viewing our fellow citizens as independent individuals as opposed to a collection of people working together as a team to improve our country and the collective lives of those that live here. When the individual trumps the collective it make it hard to get things done. And when a large number of individuals decide they will not take a small personal risk (accepting a vaccine despite the very small possibility it will cause them harm) in support of the greater good and supporting the people that are not physically able to take a vaccine, then this diminishes us as a county and as a people.

But here's the funny part. If you bring this down from the social media level (STOP GOVERNMENT CONTROL, THERE'S TRACKING CHIPS IN THE VACCINES, THE ILLUMINATI CONSPIRACY IS REAL) to the human level, I do think anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are reasonable people indeed. For example if grandpa dies, and grandma has no choice but to come live with me, and because of a serious allergy grandma cannot take a vaccine, I do expect that the vast majority of anti-vaxxers would take a vaccine if not doing so meant potentially killing grandma. These people are not monsters, I think they just don't feel the same sort of empathy towards strangers as they do towards close family.

Everybody wants this to be over. Is there a better way of doing it? Maybe. But I do think governments are trying their best. Remember, none of these leaders have ever been in this situation before, so they are learning as they go and making mistakes along the way, just like any of us would if we were in the same situation. Government does not have all the answers, and we shouldn't expect them to.

Mask up, vaxx up, and let's hope for a good summer!

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