By Medicine Hat News Opinion on March 17, 2020.
There’s no question our world has changed immeasurably in less than a week.
Seemingly overnight, our daily lives have transformed into the beginning of every post-apocalyptic science fiction movie. But the choice of what happens next is in our hands.
Please, for the love of all that is sacred, listen to the advice of medical professionals. Wash your hands as much as physically possible. Limit your physical exposure to other people, particularly if you’re feeling ill. Better to err on the side of caution in the throes of a pandemic.
We in the media, who are fortunate enough to be one of the industries who can continue work from home with relative ease, have a particular responsibility to not understate the risk we’re in.
People will die. If you look to Italy – where hospitals are so overcrowded frontline healthcare workers must make the dreadful decision of who should receive treatment – this much is clear. The issue for us here in Canada is to minimize the number of deaths from this contagion.
The federal government must immediately take steps to close the border with our neighbour to the south, whose leadership tragically has no plan whatsoever to deal with the emergency at hand and is far more likely to contribute to the spread of the virus here than anyone else.
We have to be prepared for the worst, but we also have to look towards our future after the pandemic is settled, at the very least to avoid mass hysteria. It’s a delicate balance, undoubtedly.
Policy prescriptions that were seen as beyond the pale just five days ago, such as a universal pharmacare, guaranteed basic income, printing money and nationalization, are now necessities when so many are going to be out of work and in poor health for the foreseeable future.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.
The reality is we’re going to need a massive pooling together of public resources, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Second World War to ensure society doesn’t collapse under the weight of this pandemic.
The government is going to have to step in to offer massive bailouts to entire industries that will be affected. But we can learn from the mistakes of the 2008 bailout of the financial sector, where financial institutions were propped up while the rest were left to suffer.
There will be those who use this crisis, just as they used the financial crisis, to promote their corporate agenda.
While we’re all rightfully focused on COVID-19, the Alberta government is still, as of press time, preparing to auction off Crown land near Taber on March 31.
And Premier Jason Kenney is using the chaotic scene at airports to flex his Wexit “fair deal” muscle, lambasting “inadequate federal screening protocols for international travellers” and directing the province to step in.
Provinces should indeed play a salient role in addressing this crisis alongside the feds and municipalities, but now is not the time for superficial political theatrics between the different levels of government.
For the time being, the provincial government appears to have called off its wars on nurses, doctors and teachers.
But when there’s a return to a semblance of normalcy, be prepared for the hits to come even harder.
Those of us who are proponents of strong climate action and all the major, structural changes it entails need to make the case that if we can come together in a time of crisis to ensure everyone is taken care of, we can do so to avoid the next major crisis on the horizon.
In these trying times, it’s easy to fall into despair. But just remember, we’re all in this together and we can only get through this crisis collectively.
So reach out to your loved ones, particularly those who are elderly, immunocompromized or living with mental illness. Even though we’re going to be physically isolated from each other, we have the opportunity to put the “social” back in “social media” and, like Noah from the Bible, figure out what happens after the deluge.
This will all end eventually. The question is what sort of world we want to build afterwards.
(Jeremy Appel is a News reporter. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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