New Perspectives: A Senior Moment – “COMPLIANCE, CONNECTIONS OR CARE-LESS?”

On Saturday, Ontario recorded 407 new COVID cases, the highest single-day number since early June 7th. More surprising was that 71% of these new patients were under the age of 40. With September’s reopening of grade schools, colleges and universities, with more adults leaving the security of home-work and returning to office or factory, risks will increase.

With the coming of colder weather which moves people indoors, the chance of contagion grows. Not surprisingly, 62% of Canadians polled September 11-14 by Ipsos expressed concern about catching the virus but females were more worried (72%) than males (55%) according to the poll commissioned by Global News. The lead pollster explained the gender discrepancy this way: Men are “—-less concerned about risk-taking.”

Across Grey and Bruce Counties, we will make everyday decisions over these next weeks which can determine our own level of risk-taking. Those choices will be based on which of the following factors determines our behavior in response to this seemingly-forever, ongoing pandemic.

COMPLIANCE: In his radio interview this week with CBC’s Ontario Morning, our Medical officer of Health, Dr. Ian Arra, neatly summarized what compliance to COVID protocols entails: “Wear, Wait and Wash.” Unlike many of our American neighbours, we now routinely wear masks while shopping and venturing inside buildings beyond the security of home. We accept the need to practice social distancing, passively obeying those red signs on the floor. We make millions of dollars for the soap and sanitizer factories by hand-washing in frequencies once associated only with those struggling with OCD. By doing so, risk is dramatically lowered for ourselves or anyone who crosses our path.

In dramatic testimony before Congress this week, Dr. Robert Redfield, (Center for Disease Control and Prevention -CDC) stated about the wearing of a mask: It is “— more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

CONNECTIONS: I admit to not always being compliant with COVID protocols. I wonder how many grandparents are equally culpable? How does one not hug a little grandchild who runs into our arms during a rare visit? How does one not accept the occasional brief, hold-my-breath hug from a dear friend who lives without human touch the rest of her lonely week? Can we continue to always bar the door against family from out of town? Can one say a final farewell to a patient in palliative care without a brief physical connection—even a handshake? We are designed for intimacy, a physical and emotional need which we must balance against necessary protocols.

We have remained protected through these COVID months by hiding safely behind our moats, that “small bubble” of immediate family and one or two friends allowed inside our social circle of ten people. With the aforementioned reopening of school classes, commercial businesses and offices, “—most people’s bubbles have burst.” (Dr. Ashleigh Tuite, epidemiologist and Assistant Professor at University of Toronto, September 18, CBC News.)

CARE-LESS: The heading is not a typo or spelling error. The third possible response to the threat of COVID is seen in the behavior of many individuals who could ‘care less’ about the risk that the pandemic poses to others and themselves. These are the ones who rushed to join crowded street or backyard parties and congested indoor social gatherings as soon as Ontario restrictions were eased. As the Ipsos survey discovered, many men are indeed less concerned about risk-taking. It is not a coincidence that Ontario’s current spike in new cases is created in two of three cases by persons under 40.

It is perhaps unfair of me as an old man who once had his turn with youthful partying and ribald university celebrations to now criticize this generation of young folks who covet the same social experiences. Yet we live in a time of crisis: a moment in life where some sacrifice is required for the common good. Eighty years ago, another generation of young Canadian men and women sacrificed much more than those small restraints our medical professionals and provincial Government now ask from us. For that minority who cannot voluntarily postpone immediate gratification, the Premier yesterday extended restrictions across the whole Province on these risky private social gatherings.

While allowing for the need for selective human connection, we must continue to remain compliant with COVID protocol. Being care-less means that we priorize our own pleasure but care less about our more vulnerable neighbours and loved ones. As Premier Ford reminded us yesterday: “We’re all in this together.”