I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Sort Of Lockdown
What About This Lockdown Makes Sense?
If you look at how the Ontario government has described what grey zone lockdown looks like on paper, you'd be right to have a few questions.
This time around, smaller retailers are open for in-person shopping, albeit in reduced numbers, which is the same sort of restriction put in place for the big box stores. That doesn't bother me, as I feel that smaller retailers have been screwed over many times over since the pandemic began in March 2020. I don't mind waiting in line for a smaller retailer, and there's some degree of comfort offered in shopping at a smaller retailer because there's something about that experience that feels warmer and friendlier than you'd receive at some of the larger stores.
However, there are unfair restrictions now placed on fitness centers, gyms, restaurants, and personal care services. In Simcoe Muskoka, there has been no evidence that there has been any sort of an outbreak in any of those sorts of facilities, and yet, they're being forced to close with this latest lockdown. However, other businesses, such as ski hills and outdoor skating rinks, are permitted to remain open.
There is a government news release about the "emergency brake" having been pulled in Simcoe Muskoka and in Thunder Bay. As far as the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit goes, the government press release states that the brake was activated "due to a rapid worsening in key public health indicators, as well as a high presence of variants in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit that continue to increase - the highest in the province. As of February 23, 2021, there has been a total of 170 confirmed cases of a variant of concern in this region."
While I do understand and appreciate the extreme caution that appears to be occurring with regards to the variant of concern, the significant area of concern that's happening because of the lack of stability with this pandemic is the impact on people's mental health. I would support a lockdown if what was being restricted actually made sense. If there's an outbreak that's occurring in one area of commerce but not another, close that area down for the time being and move on. The fact of the matter is, anything that's about to restricted in Simcoe Muskoka has not had a case of an outbreak.
In fact, these businesses have been more cautious than the larger stores that have been allowed to remain open since the start of the pandemic back in March 2020. I am regularly asked when I attend the gym or go to my dojo if I've experienced any symptoms with regards to COVID-19. Not only am I asked this question, I'm watched to ensure that I maintain three metres of distance between myself and the next closest person. This, of course, exceeds the minimum public health standard of two metres of distance. I have to sanitize going into the building, I have to sanitize again after I sign in, and as I'm wiping down any used equipment with a sanitizing wipe, I'm theoretically being sanitized again. These businesses also leave enough time between sessions or classes that they can fully sanitize the equipment again or mop the floors every time.
Some of these impacted businesses also check the temperatures of incoming individuals. These businesses impacted by the new grey zone have actually done more than the larger stores, who very frequently barely look up at you from their counter as you enter their establishment. Some might ask you to use hand sanitizer, but for the most part, these larger stores seem not to take the measures that the smaller facilities do.
So why, then, target these smaller businesses, personal care facilities, and fitness studios?
I know there are no easy answers during a pandemic, and perhaps there shouldn't be. I hate to say that these are unprecedented times because that's an expression that has been used far more than the expression "you're still on mute" over the last year, but it's true. There is no rule book that would be accurate to use in these current times. However, in clamping down on these smaller businesses, the government has basically targeted what is for so many an outlet to alleviate stress or mental health concerns.
Not everyone goes to a ski hill or a skating rink because they might not be able to afford the equipment, but going to a weight room or getting a hair cut can work wonders for people's mental health. Once again, people in Simcoe Muskoka and in Thunder Bay have had those options taken from them. The government doesn't generally seem to care because our elected representatives are rich enough that they could probably afford to have their own personal versions of these resources.
The restrictions right now are nonsensical, the government seemingly lackadaisical, and the affected people emotionally and physically exhausted and struggling to make sense of it all. Vague messaging and trying to cajole us along by trying to seem relatable is no longer acceptable. Everyone at this point is aware that the variants exist, but now, people are beyond tired, and people's mental health is suffering for it.
I should note that all front-line workers have been dealing with these unusual stresses for most of this last year, and certainly, their hard work throughout this should be recognized and appreciated by the government and the people at large. That doesn't always happen, and that, in turn, can also have an impact on people's mental health as well, which is unfair. Yet another lockdown is not going to help that improve.
Something has got to change before the people break from it all.