By Chad Ingram
We've watched it coming for a couple of months, quickly and insidiously, first in China, then Italy and other countries in Europe. Then Vancouver, then the GTA. During the weekend, the strain of coronavirus known as COVID-19 made landfall in the jurisdiction of the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, with cases confirmed in Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes, respectively.
As I write this, the Ontario government has just declared a state of emergency in the province, limiting group gatherings and restricting business activity. Down the street, Haliburton County councillors are gathered at a meeting where they are effectively suspending the activities of council for the time being. The lower-tier townships have closed their public facilities, are cancelling public meetings and events, and are asking residents to conduct their municipal business digitally. The library system is shut down, live entertainment is being cancelled and businesses of all kinds are limiting their hours. For the most part, the public, social and civic life of this community is on hold. On pause.
While there have been less wide-spread, more geographically concentrated pandemics in recent times, the truly global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing that anyone alive today has really witnessed before, and that is strange, surreal, and yes, a little bit scary.
Stay at home if you can, we're told, a prospect that seems simple enough, but may be more challenging than it seems for a society bent on busyness, one that worships at the altar of productivity.
But it's crucial that we pull back, that we seclude ourselves as much as possible. The virus spreads easily, but has to jump from vessel to vessel – that's us – to continue its spread. Listen to an infectious disease expert speak and they'll talk about the benefits of social distancing in slowing that spread. That buys us time for a vaccine to be developed. Most experts will tell you that a vaccine is likely 18 months away, but mitigating medications should be around long before that. Basically, we just have to buy the world's medical minds enough time to do what they do. Eventually, we'll view COVID-19 the way we view the flu or common cold.
In the meantime, though, get good at solitude. If you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, do it. If your employer is offering other alternative working arrangements, take advantage of them. Go for walks in the woods – we have a whack of them in the county. Start working on that Doug Ford oil painting you've been meaning to get around to. Learn to make sushi from scratch. Spend time with your children, or at least send them into the woods.
Many local businesses will take an economic bruising during the coming weeks or months, so try to support them the best you can. Purchase gift certificates for future visits. Order takeout. Make online purchases. And for the love of god don't panic-purchase things. There are fewer than 20,000 of us in the county on a year-round basis. There's lots of everything to go around if we just share and keep our consumer habits at their usual level.
We'll get through this together, but apart.