Wish We Were There

We’re on the right path though still less than halfway there, and yet we can look forward to returning to a more social life this summer and fall if we’re willing to follow public health advice.

Making sense of accurate but mixed messages has become standard fare during this pandemic.

This week is no different.

Toronto’s daily average case count was 822 this week, down about 25% from its high and reversing the trend from the skyrocketing numbers that preceded the lockdown. That’s a major accomplishment. We went to the edge of the cliff as Intensive Care units across the province filled and numbers approached the breakdown point of 1000, but that number stands at 777 today and should continue to fall as cases drop.

But these numbers are still far too high and restrictions will likely stay in place until cases fall to less than half of what they are now. To do otherwise would be to repeat the mistake Ontario made in February when it ignored expert advice and opened up prematurely.

This week, the Province extended the Stay at Home order until at least June 2 and said that schools would remain closed “for the time being.” The City officially announced that there would be no permits approved for events until after Labour Day, shutting down such events as the CNE and Taste of the Danforth.

Up until that announcement I had not formally cancelled the Cultura Festival, which until last year I operated for more than 10 summers, on Friday nights in Mel Lastman Square. Now, it, along with many other outdoor summer events involving crowds, will need to wait till next year.

Just as I was absorbing that bit of bad news, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, issued some somewhat rosy preliminary guidelines, pointing to a summer when we can look forward to socializing with close family and friends outdoors.

But that’s only if cases continue to fall and 75% of the population has received at least one dose, with at least 20% having two doses.

In the fall, Tam said, more indoor activities can resume if 75% of the population has received two doses.

In the meantime, health officials are urging governments to maintain tight restrictions and asking individuals to continue mask wearing and social distancing, even after one vaccine dose.

I hope Tam is right in predicting that we will meet those vaccination levels this summer and that 75% will be enough. In some quarters, there is increasing concern that more transmissible variants – especially those able to evade vaccine immunity – will move that benchmark higher.

In Britain, where the government is already easing restrictions while still battling the highly contagious variant that originated there, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned today that the even more dangerous variant that originated in India could take hold in the UK.  As COVID spreads in countries that don’t have much access to vaccines, deadlier mutations are likely to continue to evolve and spread.

All of which is to say that we’re not out of this yet, and how soon we get there depends a lot on our own behaviour. So get vaccinated at your earliest opportunity, encourage everyone you know to do the same, and continue all precautionary measures until we’re a lot further along the path out of this.

For all of us wishing we were a lot closer to seeing all the people we love, here’s Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

– John