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LETTER OF THE WEEK: Fighting COVID-19: The correct path is likely finding middle ground

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor - 123RF Stock Photo

When our Island government recently moved to implement mandatory mask wearing for all indoor public places, similar to our New Brunswick and Nova Scotia neighbours, it presented Islanders with an opportunity for curious reflection. I use the word curious deliberately as most of the reflection around the issue is neither critical nor well-thought-out, with a few laudable exceptions.

Most fall into one of two camps: 1) trusting the government absolutely during this pandemic and 2) that there is a tremendous conspiracy that is going to usher in a new world order. I've always liked to consider myself a centrist, and try to fall somewhere in the middle on most issues.

Even at the centre however, there remain basic questions that need to be answered. Conservative estimates place the survival rate of COVID-19 at 97 per cent, more liberal estimates are as high as 99.75 per cent. Further: W.H.O data suggests that 80 per cent of cases are mild or asymptomatic, with 15 per cent being considered severe or requiring oxygen and five per cent being critical, meaning ventilation. Those seem to be very good odds, as far as pandemics go. The question is: why does our government keep adding restrictions, when the risk to islanders is incredibly low, as our chief public health officer usually adds in her regular updates.

The easy answer of course, is that we want the risk to stay that way – low. But can the argument not be made that we can continue doing things the way we have been without increasing restrictions? Rotational workers are being tested, people coming from outside the "Atlantic Bubble" are self-isolating, and the risk remains low. It seems as though there is no end in sight, and Islanders are frustrated, and rightfully so; for a virus with a very high recovery rate. No one thinks that we shouldn't be careful, but at what point does caution turn into irrationality? It seems as though we are regressing rather than progressing, while the virus remains as it always has been.

Now we eagerly await a vaccine, one which has been made quickly but hopefully not hastily. Companies such a Pfizer are announcing rates of 95 per cent effectiveness against COVID-19. Does a virus with a survival rate of 97-99+per cent warrant a vaccine that is 95 per cent effective? Perhaps for the most vulnerable among us, but mandatory for the majority, as some Island politicians are suggesting? It is a question that needs to be asked.

I have little doubt that most of our health and political authorities are sincerely trying to do what is good and right – yet the statistics don't lie. The chances of COVID-19 causing severe illness or death is very low, especially for Islanders. And the fact that our provincial and federal governments are continuing to increase warnings and restrictions, causing fear, instability and divide among Islanders, is both damaging and frightening. In the beginning the answer was to the flatten the curve, next it was to eliminate community spread. On the island we don’t have to worry about either of those situations. Is the current reason simply to usher in the 'new normal?' Whatever that might mean, our officials keep using that or similar terms. 

I'm sure that the majority of Islanders were relatively happy with their lives on March 1, 2020. I wonder why, nine months later, we suddenly have the need for a 'new normal' or a 'great re-set' from a virus which 97 per cent of people will recover from with mild to no symptoms, before a vaccine is even available? Simply another question which has no readily available answer.

While we shouldn’t rush to conspiratorial narratives, we shouldn’t offer blind obedience either. Islanders need and expect reasonable answers. 


Dryden Buote,
Tignish

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