Greetings from the midst of this pandemic. How’s your toilet paper supply?
Have you so far managed to ignore the voice in the back of your head demanding an immediate run to the grocery store to pick up … well, anything really. That little voice won’t be satisfied until your grocery cart is at least half full with a random assortment of products.
I’ve been arguing with that little voice for days now. Perhaps you have, too.
We’re all living with anxiety. A bit of nervousness is understandable. We’ve never seen a situation quite like this. And now, as of Tuesday, we find ourselves in a province that has declared a state of emergency.
This is new for me. I've never actually been in a state of emergency. I'm glad Ontario has taken this step.
We don’t want to see a situation like the one unfolding in parts of Italy, particularly northern Italy around Lombardy. Hospitals are overflowing, health-care staff are reaching the breaking point. The country is locked down. An eerie quiet has descended over the Boot.
But people are still finding ways of coping. You’ve probably seen or heard of videos of Italian neighbours singing together from their windows over empty streets.
We have to take this seriously, even those of us who don’t think COVID-19 is that serious. We have to be smart about limiting our exposure to others and limiting the opportunities for the virus to find new hosts. Doing what we can to stop it in its tracks will help ensure our health-care system can remain limber and responsive to those who need it.
If you don’t think the virus is serious, the numbers don’t lie. Stop comparing COVID-19 to the flu — it’s not the flu. Flu kills fewer than one per cent of those who get it. Business Insider produced a chart comparing Chinese COVID-19 deaths to annual U.S. flu deaths.
It’s startling. Those numbers show COVID-19 is twice as deadly as seasonal flu for most younger age demographics. Once you are over age 50 though, things get dire: 1.3 per cent up to age 59; 3.6 per cent up to age 69; and eight per cent up to age 79.
For Chinese residents over age 80, COVID-19 killed at a rate of 14.8 per cent.
This is why it’s so important to limit the spread as much as possible. This is far more serious than seasonal flu.
We will get through this. It will be painful at times; it will be expensive personally for many of us and economically for all of us — neither of which compare to losing a loved one, something that will surely happen to some of us.
It’s also important to remember that, right now, there are only two cases in Sudbury. The spread, so far, is limited, which means we have a window of opportunity to keep COVID-19 in check in the Nickel City. That window is closing, but there is a window.
Community spread may already be occurring, however if we all follow the directives from health officials to stick close to home and limit our exposure to other people for the time being, we are giving COVID-19 fewer opportunities to run wild.
The papery elephant in the room: There is no threat of a toilet paper shortage. There’s no need to run to the store and fill your vehicle with roll upon roll of TP. The shelves will be restocked.
The same goes for hand sanitizer and disinfectant products. When it comes to these products and food products, get no more than what you need, and leave some for others. The shelves will be restocked.
If it’s possible for you to stay home, the federal government is encouraging you to do so. Doing so will limit your possible exposure to COVID-19 and your family’s exposure. The more we limit congregating together in crowds, the more difficult it is for the virus to spread.
The Ontario government is enacting legislation to ensure protected leave for workers who have to take unpaid leave for self-isolation or quarantine.
The federal government is also providing Employment Insurance to those directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19. If you are an early childhood educator in a daycare that has closed due to the pandemic, for instance, you will be able to receive EI. The week-long waiting period for all claims has been waived at this time as well.
Other things we can all do to help each other: Don’t hoard food or supplies, buy enough for yourself and leave something for others; call, text or video loved ones and neighbours to check in on them and assure them you’re OK; rely on official news media, government and public health for reliable info on COVID-19, not social media and rumours; don’t panic and stay rational — you’re no good to anyone if you’re freaking out; practice social distancing to minimize your chances of coming into contact with the virus.
The irony of it all is if we get this right, we’ll never know how right we got it. But if we get it wrong, well, we don’t want to get it wrong.
Mark Gentili is the editor of Sudbury.com and Northern Life.