We wrote last week,of all the reasons why this is the right time for a gradual reopening. And of all the things we will be changing to assure the safety and success of our societal reboot. But all the rules and comforting words can only go so far. We understand that concerns remain. Sometimes it is helpful to look at history. A history that demonstrates that we’ve been through this before. And we not only survived, but thrived.
In 1968 the world went through a pandemic called the Hong Kong Flu. It broke out in the summer. It spread from Hong Kong to North America before Europe due to some US troops being transferred from Asia to the Panama Canal Zone.
Over 1 million people died from that flu. The world’s population then was 3 billion less than today. 110,000 died in Canada and the United States alone when our combined populations were 143 million less than today. And most victims were over 65.
People worried because that pandemic tended to affect younger people, though their death rates were low. Yet nothing was shut down.
Seminal events in our history unfolded. It was an election year. The year of Trudeaumania. It was the Summer of Love. Planning for Woodstock continued. Planning for the Apollo 11 moon mission continued.
A vaccine was finally developed some 15 months after the worst of the pandemic was over. It pays to examine why our reactions were so different.
It is reasonable to speculate on one essential difference between then and now. Too many today demand guarantees and assurances of safety in all things. We seem to have forgotten that this is simply not possible.
Too many are willing to buy political promises of total security and will buy into anyone and anything that promises it. Too many politicians have exploited these fears and pandered to the facade of security with mindless prohibitions. Few have the courage to stand up and tell the public what they know to be true. Life is dangerous. We don’t have solutions to everything. We’ll do the best we can, but go on living.
As the western world begins to awake and arise, it is clear that statistically there has been little difference between those jurisdictions that adopted the educated theory of isolation and those that chose community immunity. About 8% of us will be infected with the virus. And 80% of those will,not feel anything. A small percentage will get flu-like symptoms. A much smaller percentage may require hospitalization. And tragically a very small number will succumb.
Some 85% of deaths are people over 75 with underlying conditions. And in Quebec, 82% of deaths have been from those in CHSLDs. The tragedy of underfunded, understaffed and under-equipped seniors homes is a tragedy playing out all over North America. It is a problem that must and is being addressed. But it cannot be solved by fear. Quite the contrary. If we really care, we need to get back to work and produce the tax revenues to fund these homes so that this tragedy can never happen again. It is our responsibility to get out there and make this a priority.
For the overwhelming number of us, getting a virus is a part of life. But if we are generally healthy by all means take precautions. It’s like crossing the street, look both ways. Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face. Even wear a mask if distancing is difficult. But for the sake of our seniors and for us all, let’s go on living.