Leong: Controlling COVID-19 spread requires individuals to pitch in
Back when the COVID-19 pandemic was new, Alberta’s health-care officials moved to ensure there would be enough hospital beds to handle an influx of patients sickened by the novel coronavirus.
After hospitalizations hit their peak at the beginning of May, it’s safe to say everyone was pleasantly surprised to learn we came nowhere close to filling those spaces.
If you get sick, there’s room for you, we were essentially told.
Depending on how you feel about the COVID-19 threat, that statement is either an admonition or an invitation — a warning against the possibility of filling up our hospitals, or a signal to ease our long-term battle to keep the coronavirus under control.
By and large, society has been leaning toward the relaxation end of that spectrum.
Many businesses have reopened since May, although things are clearly not business as usual.
The limits on gatherings have also been raised.
Through this time, public health officials have continually warned us to carry on with those hygiene practices we’ve been asked to perform for months: wash our hands frequently, keep a proper distance from others, and starting more recently, cover our faces if a proper distance can’t be maintained.
Somewhere along the line since this province’s economic relaunch began, things haven’t quite worked out perfectly.
Now, many weeks into the reopening, the number of people being sickened by COVID-19 has been creeping up, with the virus striking all regions of the province — albeit some more than others.
And the number of people requiring hospital treatment has returned to levels we haven’t seen for three months.
With this news comes the necessary conversation about what we need to do to keep things from getting out of hand, as has happened elsewhere.
And by “we,” I don’t mean the government or public health.
I mean each and every Albertan.
If we do everything right, it’s an agonizing two weeks until we learn if it worked.
Instant gratification, this most certainly is not.
But the payoff is filled with positive possibilities: Avoiding serious illness, maybe even saving someone’s life. Preventing our hospitals from needlessly filling up. Keeping the economy open.
We’d still have to keep up with the hand-washing, distancing and masking — an entirely reasonable proposition.
As we get ready to flip our calendars to August, Albertans find themselves with the same choices we were faced with at the beginning of May.
Last time around, we successfully kept a lid on COVID-19 but this time, we don’t have a widespread government-imposed economic shutdown to guide our decisions.
Yes, there’s still plenty of room in the hospital if we become seriously ill. But do we really want to fill those beds and reach a point where we could lose control of the disease’s spread?
I would love to see retail stores and personal services stay open. I am very happy to wander along the main street in my neighbourhood and see the bar and restaurant patios hopping (but not crowded).
For all this much-needed economic activity to continue, we all have to act responsibly because, as we keep being told, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere.
If we don’t individually get our act together, we could see setbacks as much with Albertans’ lives as with Albertans’ livelihoods.
We risk the return of stringent public health measures and perhaps even forced shutdowns, as unwelcome as both might be.
Such a scenario, which we’ve seen play out elsewhere, is entirely avoidable and — I truly hope — without the government having to force us to do the right thing.
On Twitter: @RickyLeongYYC