It is hard to imagine how much the world can change in an instant.
Three weeks ago, things seemed regular. Classes were in session. Sporting events went ahead as planned. People were free to do or go or meet people whenever and wherever they pleased. While the COVID-19 coronavirus was raging in China, South Korea, Iran and Italy, life went on as usual in the Interlake, Manitoba and in most of North America.
Now, most of the world has come to a halt. As of March 17, 15 Manitobans have either been confirmed to presumed to have had the virus and by the time you’re reading this, there will be more. While the number of new cases are decreasing in China and South Korea, COVID-19 continues to overwhelm health care systems in Europe, especially Italy. It has also exposed the flaws of the health systems in North America and our own leadership. Now, the words “pandemic,” “community spread,” “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” have become part of the everyday lexicon.
The world is facing an invisible foe which has already ravaged humanity and have turned most of us from social creatures to shut-ins.
Yet, history is full of lore about the world coming together to defeat different types of foes, including pandemics such as the 1918 Spanish Flu which lasted nearly three years worldwide and took the lives of between 50 to 100 million people. We can beat this one.
However, there are those who are sacrificing their own personal health to make it happen. People like healthcare workers and lab technicians working round the clock to treat affected patients and to diagnose new cases. There are unsung heroes like grocery store workers maintaining the food supply chain and dealing with large crowds at a time when it is advised against. There are also the ones who volunteer to deliver groceries and other goods to seniors and others who can’t take the risk of being infected.
When this threat subsides, they will be the ones who should be celebrated.
If we follow the advice of healthcare and government officials: to eliminate unnecessary travel, to stay home, to practice better hygiene and to stay away from people if possible, we can tackle this epidemic. It will not be a quick fix (weeks, maybe months) and the social and economic costs will be painful, but when this virulent strain finally relents, we can be remembered as the generation who came together to stop it. Later, there will be time to learn, re-evaluate and perhaps change aspects of our lives.
But in order for our hands to get dirty, we need to wash them first.
— Adam Peleshaty is a multi-media journalist with Interlake Publishing