Not the ‘living with COVID’ we were promised
SHIRA LURIE Shira Lurie is an assistant professor of U.S. history at Saint Mary's University.
If you were sick in December, you are not alone.
Our tripledemic continues to escalate as COVID-19 cases surge globally due to a new highly contagious and immune-evasive variant, JN.1.
And despite Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, once promising that “stronger (public health) measures” would return “if we had a substantive new variant,” the Tim Houston government has been conspicuously quiet about this new threat.
This is disappointing but, of course, unsurprising, as Houston’s COVID-19 policy has long been to pretend the virus no longer exists. As a result, his government has removed almost all public health measures and continuously scaled back the amount of data available to the public. He does not say the word “COVID” and, in contravention of current provincial and federal public health recommendations, does not wear a mask indoors.
But the virus is immune to political posturing. Under Houston, Nova Scotia’s case rates, hospitalizations and deaths have skyrocketed. Indeed, 910 of Nova Scotia’s 1,004 reported COVID19 deaths (90 per cent) have occurred during his premiership; 776 (77 per cent) of these deaths have occurred since the government removed most COVID-19 protections in March 2022.
Troublingly, the opposition parties are likewise nowhere to be found. Despite the shocking rise in deaths, neither the Liberals nor the NDP have pushed the Progressive Conservatives to rethink their laissez-faire public health policies.
No party leader has even bothered to offer condolences to the families of the deceased in over a year and a half.
High rates of transmission, hospitalization and death; a lack of data, treatment access and vaccination coverage; understaffed essential services and an overwhelmed health-care sector; an estimated 3.4 million Canadians suffering with long COVID — this was not the “living with COVID” we were promised.
We are entering our fifth year of the pandemic and there is much the government could have done to make our society safer and our population healthier. We could have indoor air quality monitoring and high levels of filtration. We could have free and easy access to high-quality masks and antivirals. We could have high rates of vaccination. We could have robust testing, contact tracing and data reporting. We could have masking requirements in essential services when cases are high. We could have mandated paid sick days. We could have public education about airborne transmission.
Instead, our leaders have withheld investment from meaningful public health measures while telling us that staying safe in an unsafe world is largely a matter of “personal responsibility.”
So we are on our own as we face the second-highest case rates of the entire pandemic.
The party leaders have taken our votes, tax dollars and trust and offered us perpetual illness in return. They have chosen the path of minimization and silence while Nova Scotians get sicker and sicker, some never recovering. They have told us that we “have the tools” to stay well, while removing them one by one.
Enough is enough. Our government has promised us “living with COVID,” but we are instead being destroyed by it.