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JONESIE: The thing about anti-maskers

December 11, 2020 - 12:05 PM

In August 2003, lightning started a small fire in Okanagan Mountain Park, spelling possible danger for south Kelowna.

As it crept closer, the people responsible for the City got ready, drawing on plans and scenarios already prepared, if not specific to this emergency. They drew together in one room the people responsible for fire suppression, communications, water supply, power, drainage, transportation, emergency social services and others to enact those plans and react as the situation unfolded.

No one knew what was coming, there might be no danger at all. The growing fire could have moved in a different direction, away from the city.

Just in case, thousands of people were evacuated before a single home burned. When it did reach the city, roughly 30,000 people evacuated.

Every morning, fire chief Gerry Zimmermann appeared before the public, delivering in a calm, even voice what happened, what he expected and what he planned to do.

The fire destroyed 239 homes.

Social media didn’t exist at the time so who knows, perhaps some folks were digging up different opinions from experts in Australia to convince their neighbours our guys are doing it wrong.

Maybe people considered marches, protests and legal challenges about the Constitutionality of being forcibly removed from their homes by government decree. I mean only about .0053 per cent of homes in the city actually burned; was that really worth evacuating 30,000 people?

I’m sure people were worried how Kelowna’s economy would survive. And I don’t know how people got to church at that time.

All I saw was thousands of volunteers getting in line, helping their friends and neighbours, housing them, sharing what they had until the emergency was over and it all got sorted out.

Has social media changed us that much?

I’m drawing parallels, of course, to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s a few obvious differences. You can see fire, ash and burned out homes. We understand the danger firefighters are in.

Disease has a PR problem. We don’t see people dying alone or exhausted nurses or what goes on in nursing homes — we have to take the word of officials in charge and that’s an unsteady plank in 2020.

I also think if Gerry Zimmermann were on TV every day, the result might be a bit different. I detect a serious thread of misogyny among the cynics and conspiracy theorists who see the women in charge of public health in this country telling them what to do.

I know plenty of men — and women — who simply will never accept that and they will bend their reality to avoid it.

But I want to draw a distinction here, because another problem is developing. The rage-inducing anti-maskers have galvanized people against them to the point actual valid criticism of public health is tossed out with them.

Some of the critiques are pertinent. B.C. is ridiculously secretive about its health data, in particular in sharing prevalence of transmission in each community. With just one exception, Dr. Bonnie Henry sets rules for the entire province when a regional approach might spare some folks needless hardship. Who knows, perhaps if and when this all blows over we can have a broader discussion about weighing the needs of the many against the few.

But for now, Dr. Henry is the Provincial Health Officer and it’s her advice we chose to rely on and she’s done nothing to undermine her authority. She's earned plenty of wiggle-room. She’s the leader and in an emergency like this, either follow or get out of the way.

The only consequence of your failure to follow basic directions is the spread of a disease we still know little about, maybe the illness or death of a stranger, if not someone you actually care about.

Of all the world-wide disasters in man’s history, has there been a smaller ask of the citizenry? No one’s being asked to ration supplies, give up homes or children to a national effort.

Stay home, wash your hands, stay away from other people. 

And the masks.

Here’s the thing about anti-maskers. They're making way too much of it — but so are you.

You're giving them what they want every time you engage on social media. Just ignore them.

They pose no danger, they won’t be responsible for any serious spread.

Masks may certainly help with this pandemic but not that much. Drill down and public health officials will tell you they’re not really counting on them.

They’ll tell you one of the real values of a mask is like wearing a poppy. It tells people you care. It says you’re taking care of business and supporting the effort. It makes it easier for those who absolutely must wear a mask to wear one.

I, for one, am happy to oblige.

Focus on those people, the vast majority, and the good they’re doing. Fighting anti-maskers just creates more division.

I’ve done my share of arguing about it but man, it's Christmas.

It’s hard enough this year without all the shouting.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFONews.ca

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2020
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