It’s difficult to sugarcoat the reality that we find ourselves in.
Even when our children ask us, we struggle to come to terms with where we are now.
Where are we? COVID-19 started as a news story that originated somewhere far, far away and didn’t impact most of us directly. Hot spots flared up oceans away from us, but still seemed a safe distance away. Our comfort zone was intact.
It’s mind boggling how connected our world is though. On Wednesday, Mar. 11 the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. A day later the Town of Cochrane enacted their Municipal Emergency Response Plan as a proactive measure to protect the community and Town staff and to coordinate responses and communications. Every day we're inundated with announcements and updates.
The surface area of Earth is roughly 510 million square kilometres, about 71 per cent is covered with water with humans scattered on various land masses. We’re divided by culture, language, topography and imaginary political borders. We’ve struggled to maintain a harmonious and friendly relationship with one another for as long as we’ve walked this planet, but despite our differences, we’re cut from the same cloth.
This virus has impacted all of us now. Our world will never be the same. Our comfort zone has been fractured.
On Sunday (Mar. 15) the province announced that K-12 classes would be cancelled and post-secondary institutions would close. Following that announcement parents learned that licensed child care facilities, out-of-school care programs and preschool programs were cancelled indefinitely. The government also declared that places of worship were no longer exempt from the regulation that cancels gatherings of 250 people or more.
Parents and small businesses owners are faced with uncertainty and severe life changes in the coming weeks. Children are without social interaction, extra curricular activities, instruction, and - perhaps most importantly - supervision. Most households require two incomes to function. The loss of one income isn’t an option for most. Small business owners with young children are worse off.
Long term care facilities have closed their doors. Our most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and immunocompromised, are dependent on an overburdened and under appreciated healthcare system. The same system that weeks ago was subject to devastating cuts by our UCP government. Kenney has backed off for now, but for how long?
Most of us have seen the empty shelves at grocery stores. Frantic hoarding and panic buying has taken place in our own little community nestled at the base of Big Hill in the Bow River Valley. We’ve taken for granted the luxury of access to essentials, now that bubble has burst. We judge the people with shopping carts brimming, but we know that they are just as frightened as we are.
We are in this together at least.
Just under 500 of us tuned into Mayor Jeff Genung’s Facebook live video on Monday afternoon. We asked smart questions and were comforted knowing that we weren’t alone. The solemn address revealed that Cochrane had its own confirmed coronavirus cases, but also provided us with a message of hope and assurance. Genung assured Cochranites that the health and wellbeing of our community and the continued delivery of public service remains the Town’s top priority.
So what now? There’s no way of knowing how long this thing will last. In the meantime we need to take care of each other and be kind. We need to listen to one another and be empathetic to each of our unique situations. Check in on high risk populations by telephone and offer assistance to parents with young children. Support local businesses if you’re able. Buy what you need, and leave what you won’t immediately use. Wash your hands, cover your mouth and stay close to home.
This too shall pass and together we will become stronger.