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LETTER: Provincial COVID-19 messaging steeped in politics

September 18, 2021 - 12:59 PM



In August, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Alberta's July decision to lift all COVID restrictions was "an unnecessary and risky gamble."

The gamble failed. At Alberta premier Jason Kenney's Sept. 15 news conference, he invoked a province-wide public health emergency. Alberta hospitals have cancelled thousands of surgeries to deal with the deluge of COVID-19 patients, most of whom are -- wait for it -- unvaccinated.

On Sept.16 Justin Trudeau told reporters: "Just a few days ago, Mr. O'Toole was still applauding Mr. Kenney for his management of the pandemic. Do you really want Erin O'Toole to be sitting across from them [premiers] at the premiers' table, talking about how we end this pandemic, when he himself can't stand up to the anti-vaxxers in his own party?"

In the Hollywood medical disaster thriller "Outbreak" (1995), the virus caused bleeding from the ears, nose, mouth and eyes, liquefied the internal organs, with death occurring within 24 hours. In "Contagion" (2011) the virus infects the lungs and brain, causing coughs, fever, headache, seizures, brain hemorrhage, with death occurring about four days after infection.

If COVID-19 or one of its variants displayed many of the same symptoms, do you really think there would be many anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers still talking about their "rights"?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 - 2008) was a Russian novelist and philosopher awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. He was also an outspoken critic of communism, and helped to raise awareness of political repression in the former USSR. During his famous 1978 commencement address at Harvard University, Solzhenitsyn caused controversy when he criticized the secularism and hedonism of the West. Condemning the nations of the "free West" for being morally bankrupt, he urged that it was time "to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” He said emphasis on rights instead of responsibilities was leading to “the abyss of human decadence”.

Back to the election campaign... In his Sept. 9 post-debate remarks about the pandemic, O'Toole said Trudeau was "so slow on approving rapid testing", which is patently false! By December 2020, the federal government had already approved and delivered nearly 42 million rapid tests to provinces and territories, but public health officers have only approved the use of a small percentage of them. The majority of these tests are either still sitting on shelves, or who knows, perhaps sent to landfills or destroyed because their "best before date" has passed.

Until last month, Dr. Bonnie Henry stubbornly opposed the use of rapid tests, despite repeated calls from B.C. Care Providers Association president Terry Lake and B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. Since January, Lake and Mackenzie had been calling for rapid testing of staff and visitors to long-term care homes as an additional screening measure. According to the NIA Long Term Care COVID-19 Tracker website to date in Canada there have been 15, 285 resident deaths and 30 staff deaths due to COVID-19, including 756 resident deaths in British Columbia.

I recently re-watched Dr. Henry's July 8 press briefing.

She said, in part: "An important change is that we do expect that all visitors, recognizing the risks that we continue to have in long-term care, will be fully immunized for COVID-19. That means two weeks after the two doses of vaccine. So visitors will be asked to provide proof of immunization when they arrive at a facility, and will continue to need to wear a medical mask when they're in common areas, but they'll no longer be required to follow those infection prevention measures when they're in the room with their loved one, or in the area with their loved one. And we can expect that these mask-free smiles will make a lot of people very happy."

But next came the twist: "For those who are not fully immunized, or who are not willing or able to produce their proof of immunization, the precautions that we have in place now will be continued to make sure that we don't add additional risk in our care homes."

Henry spins information just like politicians do. By using the word "expect" at the beginning of her briefing, the B.C. public interpreted this to mean "all care home visitors must be fully immunized," which is not the case at all. The unvarnished truth, any visitor can refuse to be immunized, refuse rapid testing, and refuse to show a B.C. Vaccine Card.

According to Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, those showing up to protest against government COVID-19 restrictions are individuals steeped in far-right ideology or those sympathetic to it. Although the People's Party of Canada isn't involved in organizing the protests, Balgord said its supporters are often in attendance with the party's purple signs.

Google the CBC News video of Joel Plaskett's song, Frontlines of the Hard Times which ends:

"So let's sing a couple verses for the doctors and the nurses
At the frontlines of the hard times, getting real
At the frontlines of the hard times
From the night shift to the daytime
Through the dark clouds 'til the blue skies are revealed"

— David Buckna, Kelowna

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