Learning the lessons of the fourth wave: there’s no easy path out of the pandemic

Opinion Sep 19, 2021 by Star Editorial Board Toronto Star

Regardless of who holds power in Ottawa after Monday’s vote, the principal task for all governments across the country will remain the same: containing and, as quickly as possible, ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

And although the campaign itself generated a lot more heat than light, the past 36 days did clarify some important things about what works, and what doesn’t, in the fight against COVID.

It’s worth remembering that until the very eve of the election, most governments weren’t on board with vaccine mandates or so-called passports. They were frankly complacent about the threat of a fourth wave, despite insistent calls from public health experts, business groups, big cities and even the likes of us for more aggressive action.

Fast forward five weeks and those complacent or reluctant governments have been forced by logic and reality to accept the need for more aggressive measures.

The Trudeau government, which dragged its heels on the issue for most of the summer, got on board just two days before it called the election on Aug. 13. It announced all federal workers would have to get vaxxed, as would anyone travelling by air or rail.

Next was the Ontario government, which finally came out with a proof-of-vaccination program after refusing for months to even contemplate the idea. It joined early-adopters Quebec and British Columbia.

And last week, the final major holdouts crumbled. Alberta and then Saskatchewan dropped their opposition to vaccine passports as COVID’s fourth wave raged out of control in those provinces, threatening to overwhelm their health systems.

Those provinces have the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and it’s unvaccinated people who are overwhelmingly falling ill with COVID. Three-quarters of those filling hospital beds in Alberta are the unvaxxed.

All this is a complete reversal for the governments of Jason Kenney and Scott Moe. Both dropped most public health restrictions in early July, and Kenney’s government confidently declared that COVID had moved from being a pandemic to being merely “endemic” — a low-level threat akin to the flu that can be managed without emergency-level measures.

What a mistake; even Kenney admits “it is now clear that we were wrong.” Mask mandates and restrictions on social gatherings are back, and Alberta will start its proof-of-vaccination system for businesses and organizations on Monday. The first stage of Ontario’s program takes effect on Wednesday.’

The lesson isn’t complicated: COVID is a tenacious enemy and declaring premature victory just because people are sick and tired of wearing masks and following the other public health measures we’ve had drilled into us is the height of foolishness.

And further: we have to get vaccination rates higher than they are, and at least for the time being that means putting restrictions on access to some activities for those who won’t get their shots. In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe, a conservative who resisted vaccine mandates for too long, finally now agrees that as far as the unvaxxed are concerned, “the time for patience is over.”

This has left Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who staked out the no-mandatory-vaccines territory during the federal campaign, in an awkward position as, one by one, conservative premiers conceded they were wrong. But this is election day, and we’ll leave voters to make up their own minds on that.

Voting, however, changes nothing about COVID, the fourth wave, and how to manage the pandemic in the weeks to come.

Let’s at least learn the lessons of the past few weeks; let’s not be tempted to take the easy route and abandon public health measures as soon as the fourth wave subsides (as it surely will). And let’s step up the push to get vaccination levels as high as possible. If that means leaning on those who are slow to get with the program, then so be it.

Learning the lessons of the fourth wave: there’s no easy path out of the pandemic

Opinion Sep 19, 2021 by Star Editorial Board Toronto Star

Regardless of who holds power in Ottawa after Monday’s vote, the principal task for all governments across the country will remain the same: containing and, as quickly as possible, ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

And although the campaign itself generated a lot more heat than light, the past 36 days did clarify some important things about what works, and what doesn’t, in the fight against COVID.

It’s worth remembering that until the very eve of the election, most governments weren’t on board with vaccine mandates or so-called passports. They were frankly complacent about the threat of a fourth wave, despite insistent calls from public health experts, business groups, big cities and even the likes of us for more aggressive action.

Fast forward five weeks and those complacent or reluctant governments have been forced by logic and reality to accept the need for more aggressive measures.

Related Content

The Trudeau government, which dragged its heels on the issue for most of the summer, got on board just two days before it called the election on Aug. 13. It announced all federal workers would have to get vaxxed, as would anyone travelling by air or rail.

Next was the Ontario government, which finally came out with a proof-of-vaccination program after refusing for months to even contemplate the idea. It joined early-adopters Quebec and British Columbia.

And last week, the final major holdouts crumbled. Alberta and then Saskatchewan dropped their opposition to vaccine passports as COVID’s fourth wave raged out of control in those provinces, threatening to overwhelm their health systems.

Those provinces have the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and it’s unvaccinated people who are overwhelmingly falling ill with COVID. Three-quarters of those filling hospital beds in Alberta are the unvaxxed.

All this is a complete reversal for the governments of Jason Kenney and Scott Moe. Both dropped most public health restrictions in early July, and Kenney’s government confidently declared that COVID had moved from being a pandemic to being merely “endemic” — a low-level threat akin to the flu that can be managed without emergency-level measures.

What a mistake; even Kenney admits “it is now clear that we were wrong.” Mask mandates and restrictions on social gatherings are back, and Alberta will start its proof-of-vaccination system for businesses and organizations on Monday. The first stage of Ontario’s program takes effect on Wednesday.’

The lesson isn’t complicated: COVID is a tenacious enemy and declaring premature victory just because people are sick and tired of wearing masks and following the other public health measures we’ve had drilled into us is the height of foolishness.

And further: we have to get vaccination rates higher than they are, and at least for the time being that means putting restrictions on access to some activities for those who won’t get their shots. In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe, a conservative who resisted vaccine mandates for too long, finally now agrees that as far as the unvaxxed are concerned, “the time for patience is over.”

This has left Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who staked out the no-mandatory-vaccines territory during the federal campaign, in an awkward position as, one by one, conservative premiers conceded they were wrong. But this is election day, and we’ll leave voters to make up their own minds on that.

Voting, however, changes nothing about COVID, the fourth wave, and how to manage the pandemic in the weeks to come.

Let’s at least learn the lessons of the past few weeks; let’s not be tempted to take the easy route and abandon public health measures as soon as the fourth wave subsides (as it surely will). And let’s step up the push to get vaccination levels as high as possible. If that means leaning on those who are slow to get with the program, then so be it.

Learning the lessons of the fourth wave: there’s no easy path out of the pandemic

Opinion Sep 19, 2021 by Star Editorial Board Toronto Star

Regardless of who holds power in Ottawa after Monday’s vote, the principal task for all governments across the country will remain the same: containing and, as quickly as possible, ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

And although the campaign itself generated a lot more heat than light, the past 36 days did clarify some important things about what works, and what doesn’t, in the fight against COVID.

It’s worth remembering that until the very eve of the election, most governments weren’t on board with vaccine mandates or so-called passports. They were frankly complacent about the threat of a fourth wave, despite insistent calls from public health experts, business groups, big cities and even the likes of us for more aggressive action.

Fast forward five weeks and those complacent or reluctant governments have been forced by logic and reality to accept the need for more aggressive measures.

Related Content

The Trudeau government, which dragged its heels on the issue for most of the summer, got on board just two days before it called the election on Aug. 13. It announced all federal workers would have to get vaxxed, as would anyone travelling by air or rail.

Next was the Ontario government, which finally came out with a proof-of-vaccination program after refusing for months to even contemplate the idea. It joined early-adopters Quebec and British Columbia.

And last week, the final major holdouts crumbled. Alberta and then Saskatchewan dropped their opposition to vaccine passports as COVID’s fourth wave raged out of control in those provinces, threatening to overwhelm their health systems.

Those provinces have the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and it’s unvaccinated people who are overwhelmingly falling ill with COVID. Three-quarters of those filling hospital beds in Alberta are the unvaxxed.

All this is a complete reversal for the governments of Jason Kenney and Scott Moe. Both dropped most public health restrictions in early July, and Kenney’s government confidently declared that COVID had moved from being a pandemic to being merely “endemic” — a low-level threat akin to the flu that can be managed without emergency-level measures.

What a mistake; even Kenney admits “it is now clear that we were wrong.” Mask mandates and restrictions on social gatherings are back, and Alberta will start its proof-of-vaccination system for businesses and organizations on Monday. The first stage of Ontario’s program takes effect on Wednesday.’

The lesson isn’t complicated: COVID is a tenacious enemy and declaring premature victory just because people are sick and tired of wearing masks and following the other public health measures we’ve had drilled into us is the height of foolishness.

And further: we have to get vaccination rates higher than they are, and at least for the time being that means putting restrictions on access to some activities for those who won’t get their shots. In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe, a conservative who resisted vaccine mandates for too long, finally now agrees that as far as the unvaxxed are concerned, “the time for patience is over.”

This has left Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who staked out the no-mandatory-vaccines territory during the federal campaign, in an awkward position as, one by one, conservative premiers conceded they were wrong. But this is election day, and we’ll leave voters to make up their own minds on that.

Voting, however, changes nothing about COVID, the fourth wave, and how to manage the pandemic in the weeks to come.

Let’s at least learn the lessons of the past few weeks; let’s not be tempted to take the easy route and abandon public health measures as soon as the fourth wave subsides (as it surely will). And let’s step up the push to get vaccination levels as high as possible. If that means leaning on those who are slow to get with the program, then so be it.