COVID-19 – Don’t let your guard down

State of Emergency

You would think that this Coronavirus pandemic had gone away judging by the way people are acting here in northern Ontario. I have been doing curbside pick up mostly at grocery and hardware stores now for some time. It surprises me to see people heading into stores with no mask or gloves and seeming to not pay too much attention to the two metre social distance rule.

I am doing the bare minimum in being careful and following rules so that I do not get Covid-19 or bring it home to my partner who has a lung condition. It gives me some pleasure to see the reaction of people who are not wearing masks in stores when I walk in with my black mask, black hat, black t-shirt, and black gloves as most people look intimidated at the site of the man in black. However, I know I am protecting others, myself, and maybe more importantly making people think and remember that there is actually a serious worldwide pandemic going on and all of the experts are sure that it will not be leaving us anytime soon.

As I write this about 8,700 people have died in Canada and there are 106,000 confirmed cases in the country. Due to the fact that we are not doing adequate testing and tracing in the country, many epidemiologists suggest it might be a good idea to multiply the number of confirmed cases by 10 or perhaps even 20 to arrive at the real number of cases. Although there is a lot of talk about getting our act together in terms of testing and tracing this has not been the reality.

The fact is that we are still seeing many cases happening across the country and mostly in Ontario and Quebec. People tend to forget there is a pandemic and those feelings are drawn from the mixed messaging coming from our leadership. We are told our political leaders care so much for our safety yet there has not been adequate testing and tracing done so far. We were slow in shutting off the country from foreign visitors who could spread the infection. We have not seen provincial or the federal government mandate mask-wearing and still we are proceeding to open up the country more and more even though there is a real concern that many will get sick and die as a result of this.

The bottom line is that the powers to be have very much decided from the beginning of this pandemic to keep things running as much as possible to save the economy. However, in reality by not being proactive in the first place, business is hurting all across the country. When Air Canada starts pulling out of well-established routes across the country you can bet they know as do many corporations that dark days are ahead for the economy.

There are no easy answers to defeat this virus and experts say it could be two years or more before we have a sufficient vaccine or treatments. Many believe life will never return to the normal we knew five months ago. We are stuck with this difficult situation and it is up to us as independent, intelligent people to do what we can to protect ourselves and loved ones from getting this disease. We have to remember that it is not only the number of deaths that should concern us but also the number of cases in which people have been sick and hospitalized. Recent research and analysis show that many of those who became sick and recovered have severe damage to the lungs, heart, and other organs. People are surviving but they are left with injuries and some of these are devastating and permanent. It is also affecting people at younger ages rather than just the old at this point.

At the very least I am happy that many cities and towns across the country are making it mandatory to wear a mask inside public places. As things open up we will have some protection as mask-wearing becomes part of our culture for the foreseeable future. So we can still have a life if we wear masks when going into public spaces, wear gloves, be conscious of surface contamination, and practice the two meter social distancing rule.

Indigenous people have survived pandemics and new viruses and diseases that came to our shores in the past. Although it killed so many and left so much destruction in its wake, our survival shows that as humans we are capable of living through world-altering changes. We will find our way through this pandemic but only by being vigilant and always on guard to protect ourselves, our family, our friends, and others around us. Stay safe out there.

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.