The great shutdown
It started Friday, and rolled on right through the weekend, gaining speed — and if you weren’t taking the COVID-19 pandemic situation seriously yet, the last three days should have changed your mind. From swimming pools to recreation centres to, in several provinces, schools and universities, the shutdown of scores of the things we take for granted — all in an effort to slow the spread of the virus — is simply unprecedented. And it’s going to continue. The object? To keep people away from each other, at least enough to limit spread. In Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the closure of all casinos seemed like an obvious decision. Clusters of people, sitting close to each other and sharing the same touch pads on the machines? It just seems like an opportunity to share whatever you might be carrying with your neighbour. Likewise, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s video lottery network — it has very much the same risks that a casino carries, including the fact that patrons can be drinking and may be less concerned about proper hygiene. (If you don’t think that drinking and sloppy hygiene go — sorry — hand in hand, try taking a trip to almost any drinking establishment’s bathrooms at about midnight.) ALC video lottery machines shut down on Monday. The weekend’s developments strengthen the need to pay attention to official sources of information and to ignore unofficial, inexpert advice and rumours. The premiers and the provinces’ health officials are operating with the best information available and have the expertise to handle this situation. The public should pay close attention, as it’s our best chance of containing this pandemic. Everything has to be weighed to ensure it is the most effective and safest way to address the problem of close personal contact, especially in group settings. What can you do? Roll with it. In the great scheme of things, shutting down many things we enjoy — from the arts to professional sports to spring break travel — is a small price to pay compared with the dangers that pretty much all of the world faces right now. We’ll have to get used to reduced social contact, less travel and for some of us, working from home for the next few weeks at least. It is likely to get much, much more difficult. If in a month, when we’re looking back on all this, you hear people saying that it all seemed like we went overboard, you’ll know it was worth it. Because that will mean that it worked and we managed to blunt the impact. Do your part.