As a community and province, we are barely at the COVID-19 start line. Fortunately, we can learn from mistakes made elsewhere. Jurisdictions that show early courage to restrict spread of the virus are best positioned to blunt its head on force. Those that don’t, endure greater suffering due to political and personal arrogance.
Even if PEI’s response were perfect, the impact on our province will be great. We’ve never experienced anything remotely close to this level of disruption. And like every crisis before it, COVID-19 will bring out the best and worst in people.
Some hoard while others prepare meals for those most in need. Some educate while others spew debunked racist conspiracy theories. Some follow public health advice while others toddle along oblivious to the danger of their arrogance.
There are signs most Islanders are following the rules and that interventions imposed may help shield us from worst case scenarios in two, three or four weeks. Maintaining public diligence is an important, and potentially difficult, priority in the coming weeks and months.
People are scared with growing skepticism directed at anyone who seems out of place. Cottage owners are returning, presumably in the belief PEI is a better place to ride the storm out. They have a right to be here, we don’t question motives when they are spending money for five months in local restaurants or stores or paying their property taxes. Public Health Officer Heather Morrison does offer an important caveat: If you do not have the personal supports necessary to get through a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, don’t come.
Every out of province license plate is not someone trying to game the system. The more important question is whether everyone is following Dr Morrison’s self-isolation rules. It doesn’t matter whether you live here all year or part of the year, everyone must follow the rules, or they are endangering others. And if you have firsthand knowledge of anyone breaking the rules you have a responsibility to report it to the provincial government’s 1-800 number, a far more productive action than just complaining on social media.
What is rewarding is that our sense of what is important is changing. When our Main Streets went into lockdown, we were reminded of the power a local job and business has on the greater community. COVID-19 is not just about Main Street, it’s about every street, and the people who live there.
Two months ago, we rushed into grocery stores, jammed our carts to overflowing and left without thinking twice. Now we pause to thank those COVID warriors who stock shelves and cashiers who check us out. We appreciate the garbage man and coffee shop attendants and bakers and have gained a fresh appreciation for farmers and fishermen whose efforts sustain us.
In a crisis there are those who run forward and those who retreat. Our frontline health care workers – nurses, doctors, paramedics – are joined in the battle by cleaners and security guards and management collectively determined to minimize spread. Some jobs are sexier and boast bigger salaries and profile but every job is vital to deliver results.
Respect in public institutions is on the rise because politicians of all stripes (save Peter MacKay’s monumentally tone-deaf push for federal Conservatives to not delay its leadership contest) are seeking solutions not political points.
When the gig economy dried up overnight entertainers delivered a gold rush to our screens, freely offering their immense talents to fans near and far. There are amateurs, professionals and stars, some with modest talent, some with immense talent. They all have offered the gift of distraction and we owe them all one.
Sure, there are blockheads who just don’t get it. They are a small minority. We can be proud our province is responding with respect, action and understanding.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org