Summer School

In these days of chaotic living it seems that summer school may be a reality for many. Maybe. There’s so much uncertainty. Summer school was always seen as punitive: bad marks, too many missed days…. that rings a bell. Students crave the thing that they loathed. A lot of students are wishing and hoping that they have a chance to return to classes. If only they lived in Sweden. Or Quebec.

What this (so called) pandemic has delivered, not to diminish or downplay the illness factor, is a total disruption of everyday life. My father in law was felled by pneumonia at 99. The reality of living in long term care is bleak. It’s where people go to live their last months. A few years at most. When grampa (that’s what we called my father in law) was admitted to the home they gently told us that the average stay was one to two years. It’s why the best scenario is to live in a private residence not in an institution. Most of the residents never go outside. They are isolated inside and their fragile bodies and minds become less immune to anything. It’s a sad existence and the images of family members pressing their faces and hands up to the windows as they are barred from physical contact with their loved ones breaks my heart. It’s tremendously sad for these families. Not that death is unexpected but that it happens, in these days, in isolation.

Already we are hearing of lasting changes as our governments navigate the return to “normal”. I’m very interested and curious to watch the outcomes in Sweden. They chose not to shutter their country or economy. They are a small country of about 10M people and their biggest city is about 1.5M so the GTA alone is well beyond. I’m always amazed that policies and procedures are based on the populace areas where most of our country is rural if you remove our urban centres. Why, for example, is Nunavut in a declared emergency lockdown with zero cases or deaths. Has the mass panic and hysteria destroyed more than the actual virus?

I’m no expert. And trying to sift through the information (and misinformation) that’s readily available is exhausting. Here’s what I do know:

We spent the winter in Florida. In December we started hearing about the virus out of China. In March Disney World shut down. We knew then it was potentially serious. In our area, Polk County, many people derive their livelihood from tourism related businesses (our winter home is between Legoland and Disney). Schools were closed. Businesses closed except for food and hardware. Everyone stayed at home. Today there have been 18 deaths in Polk County (according to the state COVID stats). Everyone feared for our safety; the Canadian government recommended that everyone return home. Canadians were spread across the world.

We chose to stay put. Why stress the migration services and travel. We weren’t sick or fearful of insurance coverage. In a dire emergency we could drive home in about 22 hours. We didn’t need a flight or accommodation. The fear and fearful information was astounding. Friends and family voiced their concern. Rudy continued to play golf and we continued to do our outdoor activities. The information portrayed on the news about Florida was not our reality. At all.

At the end of March we vacated our Florida home and migrated to a home in Georgia. We had arranged this almost a year prior and decided there was no pressing reason for us to head back to winter. By now all of our friends had returned home. Their fear of border closures were baseless. Everyone we spoke to said that border crossing was simple and speedy. The line ups shown on tv did not exist according to them.

Our place in Georgia was a rural historic community about 1 hour south of Savannah; population of about 1,700. We were in a home on about 2 acres. Restaurants and most businesses were closed but the local grocery stores were open and well stocked. We enjoyed the rustic ambiance and stayed home. Of course having a dog means you have to go out for the twice daily duty rain or shine. Thank goodness. The sidewalk in our neighbourhood was lined with big old trees and historic homes; a beautiful place to walk. We rarely saw any other pedestrians and only a few bikers. The odd car that drive past slowed down and waved mostly. Our original booking was for three weeks and we’d hoped to explore the coast and Savannah, but everything was closed and everyone was at home. The only time we noticed movement was the drive in church service (exactly like the one that’s causing a ruckus here now). People stayed in their vehicles and the preacher stood on a riser with a sound system. Modified worship illegal apparently in Canada. A definite blow to the devout and for no reason in my opinion since a snaking crowded line up at Costco is ok. Bizarre. Today there have been 4 confirmed cases of COVID and zero deaths in McIntosh County where we were in Georgia.

But after two weeks we decided to come home. Increasing pressure from the fearful about borders and travelling (we heard that rest areas on the highway and hotels were closed) made us leave for Canada. None of the fears played out in our experience. All rest areas were open and super clean. Hotels were open and vigilant about sanitation. Restaurants were happy to deliver as needed (although we travelled with provisions due to the fearful warnings). The biggest downfall for us was the drastic change in temperatures. We were clearly not in the warmth anymore.

Just before crossing the border we stopped for groceries. We heard that we would not be able to shop once in Canada as we would be in quarantine for 14 days. The store I went to while Rudy filled our cars up with gas (another thing that we wouldn’t be able to do) was fully stocked and very efficient. Some people wore masks; most did not. With our cars full of groceries and gas, we headed to the border. I crossed first with Molly. There was not a soul in sight and we were the only car. We pulled up to the nexus booth and the agent asked where I was going. She asked if I had been following the news and advised that I would be in quarantine. She asked what I was bringing and I told her groceries; she said that was good because we couldn’t stop. She gave me a sheet of info about self isolation and we continued on. By the time I got to the St Catherine’s area car traffic was normal as usual. Rudy’s crossing was more strange in that he declared via video; no live agent at all. The voice told him to isolate for 14 days and no stopping en route. Not surprisingly he had to pee and was buzzed into the border facility. That’s it. No drama. No line up. No check for symptoms. Nada.

Traffic was steady all the way home. And it was snowing. It occurred to us that we’d pulled the plug too early. But here we were. At home alone for the fifth week. Thank goodness for Netflix and books. The provisions we brought with us in addition to the delivery from our local produce market (including a freshly baked pie and ice cream) were perfect.

After our quarantine our friend who managed our mail popped over to drop the last batch. He was full of questions about Florida and Georgia and how devastating it must have been. What?! We filled him in on the reality. We also let him know that Canada was a lot worse (in our area): our neighbour had fled Toronto where she was given a $800 ticket for sitting (alone) on a park bench; our friends son was pulled over and asked for ID and why he was driving in that area; snitch lines are overflowing; I’ve never seen more cars in our area (in spite of the recommendation not to travel to holiday homes). It’s far more militant here. Grey Bruce County has 77 confirmed cases. I couldn’t find any deaths. None of the cases are being hospitalized.

They’ve set up a field hospital and mobile testing centre at the local legion. I’m not sure why? I was hoping to be tested so that I could see my parents. Even though there’s no wait time for the test (apparently the centre is idle but fully staffed for 12 hours a day) I’m not eligible for the test because I have no symptoms nor have I been exposed to anyone confirmed. So I wait.

I call my parents everyday regardless of the lockdown. We chat about the same things as ever but now there’s a discussion on their fears of the virus and the restrictions on their movements. I tell them it’s temporary and that things will slowly return to normal. Even though I’m not so sure. The leaders are hesitant to take any steps for fear of “the second wave” or the “spike”. What do they expect when they let thousands of immuno suppressed lockdown people back out into the community.

It’s clear that the initial hypothesis about the numbers did not bear out. Thankfully. Now that data is available I hope that fact based, rather than hypothetical fear based, decisions are made for the greater good. I’m still cheering for Sweden.

A really great video I watched from California where two doctors on a panel reviewed their stats and concerns about COVID has been removed by You Tube. I wanted to share it because it clarified the situation in their view and was not politically motivated. Alas, the erosion of freedom of speech has begun?

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