In Our Words: Stay safe and shut down any second wave

Something caught my eye last week, something I found troubling. While I wish I was more surprised by it, it still left me disappointed.

A new set of data came out from the Angus Reid Institute about social distancing and COVID-19-related health measures. It showed that support for these measures is beginning to wane. The words that seem to sum up the national feeling on these measures are all fairly negative - “worn out-fatigued”, for instance, or “anxious”, “worried” or “bored”.

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Perhaps the most eye-opening number comes later in the report. For the first time since COVID-19 began in earnest, fewer than half of all people polled said they were concerned about catching COVID-19 - 46 per cent, to be certain. People concerned about their friends and family contracting COVID-19 were at the lowest level they’ve been since early March.

I know it’s summer and people want to do summer things - they want to go have a picnic in the park or have a party with friends, head up to the cabin for a few weeks, go out on a road trip, that kind of thing. I want to travel around too right now. I get it.

I know it’s also easy to look at our own situation in northern Manitoba - only three reported cases and counting, with nothing new reported since early April - and take it for granted, to head out in public without a mask or to get up close and personal with people.

That’s exactly what’s going to cause the “second wave” most epidemiologists have been warning about for weeks.

Yes, all these COVID-19 measures have been excessive. That’s the point. That’s why they’ve worked. That’s why only a handful of people in Manitoba have died. Yes, all the changes have been a pain in the ass. We all want to just go back to normal. I get it. I miss being able to move freely too.

With that said, giving in to the urge to pretend everything fine isn’t just false - it’s an outright health risk.

One of the demographic groups with the lowest amount of worry in these recent polls has been young people - people from 20 to 34, usually. That just so happens to be the age group that’s seen the highest number of infections in Manitoba, as well as the age group that may be impacted the most by being laid off from a service or entry-level job.

While more people in their 20s and 30s get the disease than any other group, it’s elderly people who end up getting it the worst. Young people act as carriers, passing the disease along until it reaches someone with a health condition or someone in their 80s who can’t fight it off as well.

We can see what happened in countries hit hard by COVID-19 that later were hit by a second wave. That second wave has been tied, in several cases, to trying to do too much too soon. It only takes one or two people to cause numbers to shoot up.

Take a look at Taiwan. Case numbers of COVID-19 remained low for weeks there at the start of the outbreak, had more or less stabilized, then took a huge jump up in late March. Now, they’re starting to stabilize again. Many of the new cases were tied to travel, to a person who came to the island nation from Europe, to another person who had some friends staying with them from abroad when they tested positive, to yet another person who had been on a cruise ship and flew home and another person who came home after working as a tour guide. None of that should have happened.

In South Korea, most cases of the original round of COVID-19 can be traced back to one person who thumbed their nose at health orders, went out shopping and to church and ended up infecting dozens of people. There have been more than 12,000 cases in South Korea alone and this person didn't help.

Later, cases of COVID-19 had more or less stabilized as of mid-April. Stores, schools, restaurants, gyms and other locations opened up fast. Even the country’s baseball league reopened, as any sports fan hungering for live games will know since they’ve been shown on ESPN worldwide.

Then, early last month, things started to change. A new cluster was reported in the country’s capital, Seoul, after one guy - just one - went out for a night on the city at a handful of nightclubs, then tested positive. Health experts in South Korea said in one night, that one guy came into contact with more than 1,300 people.

All the clubs and bars in the city were shut down again. More than a hundred cases of COVID-19 ended up tied to that one guy.

Four weeks ago, schools reopened in some major cities, then shut right back down again after more cases were reported.

Closer to home, let’s not forget that the outbreak that’s ripped right through La Loche and nearby communities in northern Saskatchewan was also tied to one person who came there after getting the disease at an oil sands camp, violating a health order banning travel between northern Alberta and Saskatchewan in doing so.

Now, there’s been well over 200 cases in the area and at least five people are dead.

Of course, the U.S. hasn’t gotten to that level yet - after all, you can’t get a second wave of COVID-19 if the first one never ends. (points at head)

Manitoba in particular has been quite lucky during the pandemic. Our curve has flattened. We almost made it to a full week with no new cases of the disease. That’s not even the case country-wide, as Ontario and Quebec continue to be hit hard by the disease.

It doesn’t take much to spark this thing off again.

Someone’s right to get a haircut, get drunk in a bar or go off on vacation is not worth that person potentially putting all the people around them at risk - not to mention the higher risk placed on the backs of workers who, by and large, did not sign up for this.

COVID-19 is not over. We can’t pretend that it is. The only thing that will await people being complacent about this right now is sickness.

Stay home when you can and take precautions when you have to go out. We all have to grit our teeth and bear it, because if we do manage to pull this off, we’ll be better off in the end. Stay the course.

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