[George's Pond]

Singing the COVID-19 Blues

I am sick. I am tired. Sick and tired. Of it. COVID. COVID. COVID. It’s all we hear about nowadays whether it’s from print, digital or your favourite talking heads. Well, hold on; I admit there are also street riots and the White House Gong Show to distract us briefly from the main event. But none of it is exactly uplifting. I usually like to use my Watershed platform to bring a little levity to these pages, but right now my funny bone seems to have gone AWOL. Not a lot of ha ha in the old boy these days. And it’s been going on for how long? Only months? Seems like years since all we had to worry about was the seasonal flu or an errant killer asteroid crashing into the planet.

In my neck of the woods we’ve been lucky. Northumberland County has fewer than 50 souls per square kilometre and even the most densely populated towns in all of *Watershed* country have only a fraction the density of the City of Toronto. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the fewer people we pack into a given amount of space, the less likely a communicable disease is to run amok.

But it’s not all just dumb luck. Governments at all levels have taken an “out of an abundance of caution” approach to the pandemic and our leaders have stood fast in the face of the criticism that inevitably comes with making the hard decisions. Everything from the wearing of masks and physical distancing to more severe measures like the shuttering of schools, the suspension of sporting activities and the closure of restaurants, theatres and beaches erodes our quality of life. And pity the homeschooling, work-at-home parents.

We all hate that things have come to this, but at least our leaders are smart enough to know what they don’t know and to take their cue from the experts. And with some head-shaking exceptions, we, the average Joes and Janes of the community, are also smart enough to follow that lead. So, let’s all take a bow for doing our part.

But it’s ironic that the very precautions intended to safeguard our physical health also take a significant mental and emotional toll. We are all, to some degree, victims of this pandemic.

It starts with the incessant worry – not just for ourselves but also for our loved ones. COVID respects no boundaries. All the precautions imaginable do not bulletproof us. The best we can do is improve our odds.

The financial uncertainty is a distressing reality for many. Even if we’re personally fortunate enough to be financially secure, many of our nearest and dearest are impacted by the loss of jobs or incomes reduced to an unsustainable level. Will they survive the blow?

All the activities that we participate in – that Zumba class at the community centre, workouts at the Y, an afternoon at the beach. Gone. All of them. The very things that contribute so greatly to the quality of our lives and provide a vital social outlet.

Even something as seemingly simple as being able to go to the loo when you’re out and about can’t be taken for granted. I was reminded of that by the story of the woman who accompanied a friend to a Toronto hospital appointment and, failing to satisfy that institution’s “essential care partner” criteria, was repeatedly denied use of a washroom. On one level, that hospital’s policy was entirely understandable, but when you are desperate, there’s nothing funny about it. When you need a loo, you need a loo.

Some contact with people outside our bubble is unavoidable but comes with a side of guilt and stress. We’re not all equally compliant with all the safety guidelines and, if you are a strict adherent to the advice of the experts, you have to be prepared to ask people to do things that in normal times would be downright insulting. Please use this bathroom not that one. Wear a mask. Bring your own chair. No handshakes or hugs. Keep your distance. Most people are pretty respectful, but a few react like you have two heads.

The simple pleasure of taking in a movie or a concert is yet another COVID casualty. And the Catch-22 there is that once laws are loosened, can we really feel safe going back?

I started this piece whining about the incessant barrage of depressing COVID news we’re all subjected to and now all I’ve done is add to it. I apologize for that, but a good vent is so therapeutic.

On a slightly more positive closing note, there’s no dearth of articles suggesting ways to combat the stress and anxiety of COVID-19. Alcohol and cannabis are not among the recommended remedies, but a couple of those special Sleepy Time cookies I’ve heard about might just hit the spot right now.

Story by:
George Smith