August 5th, 2021

Laying It Out: We can’t afford to add more stress; time to do our part

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on November 14, 2020.

I think Premier Jason Kenney is a poor leader whose ideological loyalty is going to leave Alberta scrambling for decades to regain respectability within this province, throughout this country and across this globe.

But when he says it’s important that Alberta avoids a complete COVID lockdown, I couldn’t agree more. And when he suggests people need to be responsible for themselves and not force the government to step in, I am more shocked than anyone to admit that I feel the same way.

That doesn’t mean I agree with why, as I’m sure his reasoning involves a certain level of profit-making that I couldn’t care less about. Nor am I suggesting I support the UCP’s overall plan for dealing with COVID, which is to, basically, tell people not to get it.

But regardless of how you get there, and I don’t care how you do, the fact is the same. We need to do everything we can to avoid full lockdown because it could add further insult to an already very injured community.

Medicine Hat is mired in a heartbreaking suicide crisis that has seen at least 13 men take their own lives in the past six months. A 14-year-old kid. A teacher. A family man who “had it all” – each story was different yet each was the same.

Connected but unrelated.

Shocking. And obvious.

All of these tragedies were at risk of occurring anyway, and I doubt we’ll ever know if COVID-19 – the job losses, the lockdown measures, the stress, etc. – pushed any of these suffering souls over the edge. But when you die of suicide, you die alone, and while this pandemic already keeps us dangerously separated, a lockdown isolates us completely.

My friend died last week. He died alone, and he died because he was alone. He had family and friends and a circle of love that seemed enormous to anyone who wasn’t the one it needed to surround. And he was alone.

If COVID didn’t influence his all-too permanent decision, I guarantee it didn’t help. And if COVID didn’t take over our lives, maybe we could have saved his. But where there are 13 suicides, there will be one more, and before COVID completely isolates that next good friend – your friend – maybe we can still do something about it.

For starters, just wear the damn mask. Wash your hands, keep your distance from each other and wear the damn mask.

Don’t think it works? Whoopity-doo for you. Put it on. Wearing a damn mask is a simple signal to your fellow citizen that you get it, you care and you are doing your part.

If you actually have a respiratory medical condition that prevents you from wearing the damn mask, go home and stay there. It’s your life we’re trying to save. Everyone else needs to quit pretending they’ve never pulled a scarf over their face in the winter and grow up.

A mask infringes on your freedoms about as much as a seatbelt does.

Since March we have been asked to be responsible for a few simple things that, if done properly, could limit the inconveniences of this pandemic. Wear your mask, wash your hands, stay six feet apart, don’t host or attend large social gatherings and treat any symptom seriously by staying home.

That’s it.

The initial lockdown was never meant to end the virus, just flatten the curve. Once we did that, it was up to us to ensure we kept the spread slow, yet ironically, it seems like those who were most against the first lockdown are often the ones most against the precautions necessary to prevent the next.

The hard reality is this: COVID is here for a while (Pfizer vaccines or not) and there is no such thing as a short-term lockdown getting rid of it. There are already real consequences to this pandemic that we don’t yet fully understand, and I am terrified for the people of this city. It is imperative that we avoid full lockdown – if not for your job or your business, then for your already lonely friend.

This isn’t some Donald Trump nonsensical claim that the “cure can’t be worse than the disease.” If we continue to spike – and Medicine Hat has now joined other cities with concerning spread – we will absolutely have to shut it all down again.

But there is someone out there right now who is hurting. They are sad and they are alone, and if we don’t work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are putting them further at risk.

I’ve been saying for a year that Kenney and the UCP have priorities beyond your needs. Don’t wait for them to do the right thing or find the right answer. We all have COVID fatigue and we all wish it would just go away, but now is the time to be our most diligent.

You often hear people say that something must be done to address the mental health issues in our society. Well, as strange as this would have sounded a few months ago, right now there is something all of us can do.

Wear the damn mask.

Scott Schmidt is the layout editor for the Medicine Hat New. Contact him at

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