Fifty-seven days into lock-down, articles begin to emerge that speak of endings. How might this pandemic end? They claim the ending is two-fold, two-sided: the end of the disease itself, or the social ending, when those on voluntary lock-down grow tired, move to re-emerge, and simply live with the consequences. There are elements opening up into the latter as we speak, from parts across the United States, to Canadian provinces British Columbia and Quebec. A friend out west is called back as university bookstore staff, and schools are set to open throughout la belle province. What changed? A week earlier, Quebec was holding tighter than most, but now are willing to release their strict measures for the sake of reopening the economy. How much is a human life worth? How much is a population worth? A week ago, as Andrew Nikiforuk wrote for TheTyee in his article “We Are in a New Danger Zone” of lockdown exhaustion, fears of an economic depression and general fear for the future:
We want this emergency to end. And many want it to end at any cost.
And that is where the dangers lie. For we now live in the domain of a novel coronavirus.
Writing in early May for the CBC website on the unending lockdown and cold-weather records in Windsor, Casey Plett writes: “In a long winter, my body can enter an amnesiac stasis. I forget the world can be another way.” Articles speak of “murder hornets” entering the United States, a trickle that, unless stopped, could so easily become a wave.
Two further articles float by my Twitter-feed, that “Demand for P.E.I. school food program is 4-times higher than when pandemic started,” and that “This Energy Analyst Says the Oil Sands Are ‘Done’,” “COVID-19 is making many bearish about bitumen. Deborah Lawrence’s past pessimism has proven unpopular, and correct.”
We are living through so much of a space that is both the endless present and the impossible future. Will this be our new normal, with lock-downs, wearing face-masks while shopping or at work, or might this be something we barely recall in five, or even two years? Does anyone remember SARS, or H1N1? Will there be long-term effects of this global pandemic in how we interact with each other, or in the multiple social and income disparities being spotlit during this crisis? The Spanish Flu altered the ways our public spaces were built, and changes we aren’t even aware of anymore. On April 30, on the World Economic Forum website, Kate Whiting’s interview with science journalist Laura Spinney speaks of the difference of those with TB struck first by the pandemic, the increase in illiteracy compared to today, causing rumours and misinformation to run wild,, and the resulting baby boom of the 1920s from a population of young and healthy survivors. Also, as Spinney offers:
It gave a big boost to the concept of socialized medicine and healthcare, which no country had really got around to organizing yet. The pandemic is what gave the stimulus to do that because there was a realization that a pandemic was a global health crisis you had to treat at the population level. You couldn't treat individuals and there was no point in blaming individuals for catching an illness or treating them in isolation.
What will Covid-19 bring? Could all of those meetings really have been emails?
As Nova Scotia theatre director and playwright Ken Schwartz writes as part of his “Pandemic Diary” entry on the CBC website:
Today, I feel like a cobbler in a world of people who no longer wear shoes.
Once we wrestle the girls from their morning tablets, Rose and Aoife work to dismantle the living room and set up a substantial fort of all the blankets and pillows from their beds. By mid-morning, they insist I experience their structure from within. The inside of their fort is very dark. Even my voice seems muffled. Cool and quiet, it is all I can do to remain awake. Later on, a package of ordered materials arrives with the doorbell, and as I open to see what it is, Aoife breaks down in tears, deeply upset that it wasn’t her Oma. She misses her Oma, and wants to see her. I don’t know what to tell her.