For the past seven months our daily lives have all but been consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has impacted our economy, it has restricted our movements, it has resulted in the cancellation of most everything we deem to be fun, and it has limited our contact with others. With all of the frustration and uncertainty we have been experiencing, it can be easy to forget that in Grey-Bruce at least we have fared quite well.
An article in the Toronto Star last week (So How Has Grey Bruce Avoided COVID-19's Worst So Far? October 6, 2020) served as a reminder of just how well we in Grey-Bruce have managed to navigate this pandemic.
“Only one Southwestern Ontario health region, Grey-Bruce, has defied the odds and not had one COVID-19 death seven months into the pandemic,” the article began.
While Ontario has seen roughly 60,000 of its residents test positive for the virus, as of Monday, only 155 of those positive cases have been in Grey-Bruce (just 13 in the Municipality of Meaford), and though Ontario has seen more than 3,000 deaths as a result of the virus, in Grey-Bruce we have fortunately not seen any deaths thus far.
Only four other health units in Ontario have seen no deaths as a result of the virus, and three of those are located in the province's northern reaches, where as in Grey-Bruce residents are naturally more distanced from others when compared to large urban centres.
The Star article attributed Grey-Bruce's success during this pandemic in part due to the Grey-Bruce Health Unit taking early action as the virus was heading across the ocean toward us back in January. The article rightly heaped praise upon Grey-Bruce's top doctor, Ian Arra, who not only began mobilizing resources early into the pandemic, but he has also ensured excellent communication with the public via daily case count updates, along with regular notices filled with information and guidance for residents to follow, while at the same time reassuring residents and encouraging everyone to remain calm.
“In Grey-Bruce, during this emergency, the public has been engaged, informed, but not afraid,” Arra told the Star.
Another key to Grey-Bruce's success during this pandemic has been contact tracing. The Star article noted that provincial guidelines aim to have 90 percent of contacts traced within 24 hours; in Grey-Bruce the health unit has managed to trace 100 percent of a patient's contacts within hours.
I think it would be safe to say that none of us has enjoyed the experience of the past seven months. We have all had to make some sacrifices, we have all had to endure face masks and social distancing, and we have all missed out on a number of events and activities from dining out to live music to public events like the Scarecrow Invasion. Even simple things like sending our kids to school has become an exercise in frustration and increased anxiety thanks to the virus. Few areas of our lives have managed to avoid negative impacts of this pandemic, but all of those frustrations and inconveniences seem like a fair trade given that in Grey-Bruce we have not lost any friends or neighbours to the virus thus far.
I think all of us living in Grey-Bruce should take some pride in our collective response to this pandemic. We can take some comfort in the fact that the overwhelming majority of us have heeded the warnings, and have followed the guidance of our local health unit. We have taken this virus seriously without panicking, we have shown kindness and compassion to our fellow citizens, and we have managed to keep pushing forward, not allowing the virus to completely control our lives.
While we can take some comfort in the minimal impact of this virus in our neck of the woods, now is not the time to become complacent. With a second wave of the virus upon us, along with our traditional flu season, we all need to ensure that we are following health unit guidelines, that we are distancing from others, washing our hands, wearing masks when indoors, and perhaps most of all, remaining calm.
How long we will have to endure the frustrations and inconveniences brought about by this virus is anyone's guess at this point, but we have seen through our own experience here in Grey-Bruce that the key to minimizing the spread of this virus is actually fairly simple – we all just need to do our part.