If all goes well, by the end of the summer Nova Scotians may be permitted to gather in crowds — large groups really — of up to 50 people. The current limit is 10.
As for bigger gatherings, those with hundreds or even thousands of people — crowds typical of events like concerts and sporting events — public health officials “have to think very carefully about how (to) introduce those — if at all — in a world of living with COVID.” That from Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, Robert Strang.
We are being eased into the next phase of the pandemic, apparently to be known as “living with COVID.” The phrase does not refer to people with the illness, but rather to society collectively trying to avoid it.
From the beginning, it's been clear that the duration and the termination of the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (SARSCOV-2) were indeterminate. There were good reasons for that. It was a new and dangerous pathogen that everybody, here and around the world, was just learning about.
But as the health crisis drags into its fourth month in Canada, some of us — well, me — feel a little like the proverbial frog in a pan of water. If you drop a frog in a pan of hot water, it will leap out. But, if you put it in a pan of tepid water, and slowly increase the temperature, the frog will stay put and boil right along with the water. Or so the fable goes. In reality, the frog has the good sense to vacate the pan as soon as it gets uncomfortably hot, but let's hang on to the metaphor.
When we went into lockdown, health and government officials talked about the measures lasting for “days or weeks” to come. Not long after that, we were told it would be “weeks or months” before things would get back to normal. The water was heating up.
And now, we are being prepared for the long haul, the so-called “new normal,” where the risk of contracting COVID-19 keeps people apart until further notice, locks away those who are most vulnerable to the disease, and
But if the virus is here to stay ... it seems like we need to increase our risk tolerance rather than simply cancel everything that heightens the risk.
either cancels or fundamentally alters the character of everything from political rallies to high school football games.
Back to the boiled frog metaphor. Had we been told at the beginning that the measures to control the coronavirus would be with us for a year and possibly years, and we were given the full menu of those restrictions, many of us might have leaped out of that hot water and demanded that the decision-makers offer up an alternative. That would be a way back to most of the activities put on hold, despite the virus.
Some restrictions are being lifted and folks are permitted a little more social activity and freedom of movement, but our risk tolerance remains low. If there's a spike in COVID cases after restrictions are eased, we're told we could be right back in lockdown.
That repressive response is a sound strategy provided there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel. That light is a vaccine, an effective treatment, or maybe the Italian doctor who claims the virus is losing its potency isn't the crank he's been made out to be.
But if the virus is here to stay — the World Health Organization has suggested that it may be — it seems like we need to increase our risk tolerance rather than simply cancel everything that heightens the risk.
If all goes well — there's no spike in COVID cases as restrictions are lifted — by the end of the summer a 50-person cribbage tournament could go ahead, but athletes on sports teams may be playing in front of family and friends, if they play at all.
So far, the scales have been heavily weighted in favour of minimizing the health risk. That was the right course at the beginning and remains the right course so long as there is an end in sight.
But, if this thing is going to drag on for a year or more, there needs to be more balance, and all the positive things that have been casualties of public health restrictions — from school and work to graduations and athletics — need to be given more weight, not for the risk they pose, but for the good they do.