Over the next months we watched as more and more US citizens died, and new infection rates skyrocketed. Those Americans we call friends, and with whom we regularly communicated, were alarmed by what was happening in their country. Of course they would be! We choose our friends on the basis of shared values, don’t we? Like us, they they didn’t question the reality of the pandemic, and had adopted the guidance of the health experts; they were as shocked as we were by the denial, defiance and reckless behaviour of large numbers of their countrymen.
The richest country in the world, featuring world class scientists, began to outpace even developing nations in rates of infection and death. One of my American friends questioned why we Canadians seemed to be doing so much better than they were at managing the pandemic. “Pat” I said “some of the Canadian provinces have been less successful at ‘bending the curve’ than others, but the majority of Canadians believe what their political and Public Health officials tell them. The Prime Minister and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada jointly reach out to the public on TV daily. They support and amplify each other’s messages; we have no reason to doubt them so we’re willing to follow their guidance.”
As the summer months passed, some of the social restrictions we endured in spring were lifted, including the highly controversial re-opening of schools. Not surprisingly, every province in Canada has begun reporting increases in the numbers of covid infections and deaths. We’d been warned that the fall could usher in a second, more deadly, wave of the pandemic. Is this it? Has it arrived? The death toll in the US has reached over 200,000 people, and while Canadian death tolls are much lower and not at all proportionate to those of our highly populated neighbour, our infection numbers continue their upward climb. Health experts in both countries warn of the likelihood that influenza and covid infections could occur simultaneously this fall/winter resulting in a situation in which our health care systems become completely overwhelmed.
I don’t know this world anymore, I want to cry. Where are we? Where can we be safe? This is the time of year we usually begin planning our return trip to US’ south. We’re sure we can’t be safe in Texas, even if and when the border re-opens. We finally decided we have to stay in our country where we both feel more safe. We know of retirees who still plan to go south as soon as the border re-opens! They argue they can be as safe staying in their homes in the American south as they would be if they stayed in their homes here in the frozen north. “We can’t live in fear,” I’ve been told by a defiant Canadian friend.
I agree, but I want to scream at her ” shouldn’t we try to mitigate risk, though?” After all these months of social restrictions, will we now throw caution to the wind? The risk to our health in the US, I believe, is much higher than it is here in Canada. In a country where no coherent national strategy exists to tamp back covid infections and deaths, the risk is great. The political turbulence, rancor and violence in my step-country, showing no signs of abatement, further increase the risk to our safety. These are my fears, and they are reinforced on the news daily. I can’t ignore them.
So as fall arrives and winter follows closely behind, I feel sad that I won’t be in my Texas home this year, surrounded by old friends. In late October, I got an email from that Canadian friend announcing her travel plans. She was thrilled that she’d just booked a flight from Toronto to Texas for November 1. She had been bitter about the border closure since the beginning. Believing the Canadian government had unnecessarily violated her rights to social liberty, she delighted in her newfound freedom.
I wished her well. I’ll worry about her all winter.