The road to normalization: temper with caution

di Joe Volpe del May 19, 2020

TORONTO - We have enjoyed, even so wistfully and ever so fleetingly, our first sunny Spring weekend. Maybe that explains why we are manifesting signs of Covid-19 fatigue. What could possibly go wrong on such a sunny and invigorating environment?

Data and numbers suggest that “only fools rush in”. If the only defense, or cure, so far against the deadly virus is best described as “avoid contracting it”, then we should not rush headlong into resuming activity as if nothing happened; as if Covid-19 were nothing more than an aberrant dream foisted upon a credulous public.

The only certainty during this two-month long quarantine has been the relative effectiveness of a policy driven by the trilogy of “test, trace and Isolate”. If one required further proof, one needed only look toward Hamilton, Ontario. The other day, an entire retirement care/nursing home was evacuated – without public fanfare – because of the high incidence of residents testing positive for Covid-19. Where did they isolate those elderly?

Or maybe we should look eastward to Quebec, a province with 58% of population of Ontario but, proportionally, with 310% of its deaths from Covid-19, as at May 16. It is safe to say that confusion is the operative word of the day when attempting to defi ne what and why Quebec is doing to restore a semblance of public confidence in its handling of a viral enemy that has no respect for nationality or language.

Not that we should be so smug. If I may be allowed a modicum of self-indulgence, the Corriere Canadese has provided coverage of Covid-19 related issues on a level second to no other medium. Our graphics have been designed to provide a visual image that reduces themes to their digestible simplicity. Our arguments have targeted what now has become the obvious. Our journalists have been stellar.

Early on, we called on governments to look to the experience of other countries taken by surprise when hit by the virus - specifically, Italy. It is where Dr. Antonio Fauci, the USA’s lead on the anti-Covid-19 strategy, went for data, because, in his words, “we don’t have data” to guide strategy. One wonders where the Premier of Quebec went for guidance because the death per capita rate in his province is remarkably close to that of Spain, a country fi ve time its population, and with approximately 27,000 Covid-19 deaths.

Of the so-called fi ve pillars upon which Ontario will base its re-opening of the economy strategy, the only one that has had any semblance of success is “isolation” – keeping people out. Which people?

Easy answer: we are the centre of the Great Lakes Basin. Quebec is our eastern neighbour. Across Lake Ontario lies the state of New York (NYS) with its 20 million inhabitants, a vibrant economy, exciting culture, intelligent, no nonsense government, a hallmark approach to transparency and… 28,878 deaths from Covid-19.

For the sake of comparison, NYS is 1/3 the size of Italy. Were that country to have the same proportion of deaths per population, its total would be 86,634. Happily, Italy is stalling at 32,007. There are several major crossing points/bridges connecting Ontario to NYS.

Continuing with the cautious comparisons, but this time toward the western border with Michigan, with whose auto and petrochemical industry Ontario has much in common. Michigan reports 4,825 deaths from its population of 10 million. Extrapolating those numbers to Italy’s population of 60 million one might expect a total of 28,950 deaths. Simplistic math, one should caution; but enough to indicate that the virus is as deadly in proportionate numbers on our continent as on any other.

Worse, it is close to home. We should proceed with caution.


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