On Thursday July 2nd a momentous event took place. Through the magic of modern media and with the skillful assistance of the IT team, alias Brad Inglis and Dr. Elaine Blau, the masterful direction of the moderator, Brian McHattie, a scholarly contribution from Dr. Ian ARRA , the Grey Bruce Medical Officer of health and eloquent, impassioned input from a broad array of concerned local business operators and citizenry, an online Town Hall meeting was held. The purpose of the meeting was to explore what might be done to get an order from either health or municipal authorities that would mandate the wearing of masks for protection against the spread of the virus responsible for COVID 19, particularly with the arrival of the summer visitors, most of whom originate from the more heavily infected metropolitan areas to the south.
There is only one word that accurately describes the tone of the proceedings “Canadian”. Would that our legislative bodies behaved with such decorum.
The meeting was polite to a fault and, in typical Canadian style, despite stellar presentations all around, the conclusions reached were less than fully satisfying with hints that action might result, but no firm commitment, and no startling conversions.
But against all odds, there have been some significant developments. A trove of neat buttons extolling the importance of social distancing has been offered by John Haselmayer from a Parks Canada source and a committee headed by Rod Anderson formed to develop some catchy signage and slogans to help impress our concerns on everyone, visitors and residents alike.
The hinted-at order for mandatory masks in places where social distancing is not possible, ie. in stores, will arrive in 10 days. A bit late to the party but a most welcome addition.
There has been a lot of discussion, much of it in the public media, regarding the contribution of mask orders to both the spread of COVID 19, their impact on the subject populations and on the economies of the jurisdictions affected. The verdict is in. Those countries that imposed the most limiting conditions, including mandatory masks, had the least restrictive, shortest periods of lockdown and are way ahead with re-opening if indeed they ever had to fully close their economy down. If that is not evidence enough, just look south. While what is happening down there is not a random controlled trial by any standard, it is certainly a massive graphic demonstration of the consequences of too little too late and mask wearing was derided in all those areas now in desperate straits.
I’m not aware of news from anywhere of an avalanche of lawsuits frequently cited as the excuse for delay. Any plan that requires resolution of all possible complications before action is taken is simply a plan for inaction.
We are now, hopefully, moving beyond this, the order is being written. The question that now remains to be asked is, have we learned anything from this experience? I hope so, because this virus is not going away anytime soon and there are others warming up in the wings.
There was a follow up meeting called by Dr. Arra the M.O.H. this past Friday [July 10]. The tone was again 100% Canadian but the disappointment on discovering that we still were not going to be given a simple direct answer to when the order would be issued was palpable. Counting the ten days had not yet started it seems. Nothing much new was added to what was already known. There has yet to be a recognition by Public Health agencies generally that they have squandered their credibility capital by the uncertainty created with this incredible waffling.
We have enjoyed amazing good fortune in Grey Bruce and while the behaviour of the populace at large has contributed hugely to that, for which everyone up here is to be thanked, this happy state of affairs owes a great deal to factors for which we really have no clear explanation that I’ve heard of.
We must avoid becoming complacent and self satisfied, the war isn’t over yet. This is just an initial skirmish and the enemy is devious and remains mostly a mystery.
Keep your guard up, get a mask on! Please, eh!
Dr George Harpur