Now isn’t the time to relax

By Mike Baker, Editor

When news came through late last week that Haliburton County would be moving into the Yellow-Protect level of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework response, you could almost sense the broad exhale of a community looking forward to things getting back to normal. 

We’ve been steadily getting there. Since the expiration of the province-wide lockdown in early February, many businesses across the region have either reopened, or are planning to do so. People seem to be a little more comfortable going out into the public. 

Minor league hockey has returned to play, some other community groups and organizations have also reconvened, and we here at the Echo have started to get notices about different events planned for later this year. 

This is all great. After a full year of restrictions brought on by the ongoing pandemic, even the most optimistic, glass half full soul will have felt some sort of way about our current predicament. People are tired. COVID-19 fatigue is very much a thing – as outlined in a story included in today’s paper about the Ontario government committing upwards of $26 million towards mental health programming across the province’s post-secondary institutions.

Still, despite that, we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we’re there yet. As we move on into the spring, with the warmer weather soon to arrive, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we’re, potentially, only a few poor choices away from disaster striking once again. We’ve seen it all happen before. 

In late summer, leading into the fall, things were looking pretty good for Ontarians. The number of new daily cases was down to multi-month lows in October, and the promise of a vaccine potentially hitting our shores before the end of the year loomed. There was a reason to be positive. Then, as the holiday season approached, things started to get worse. Families gathered, people traveled across different regions and things exploded again, culminating in a six-week long provincial lockdown. 

Since then, we have recovered once again. The number of new daily cases has often dipped back into three figures for the first time in months. 

So, with Easter and a postponed March Break on the horizon, take a moment to consider your plans. Given that only two per cent of our population has been vaccinated and there are numerous cases of COVID-19 variants of concern prevalent in our region, there is significant potential for things to go sideways once again. 

One need only look south to Peterborough. A couple of weeks ago, the region was in a better position than we were in Haliburton – in the Yellow-Protect level, while we lingered in the Orange-Restrict zone. Yet, one ill-advised party organized by students from Fleming College has led to another outbreak in the community, leaving Peterborough in the Red-Control level. 

After all the hard work put in over the past few months, and all of the sacrifices made, it would be a shame to see it all go to waste. It’s a cliché that has been used all too often throughout this pandemic, but local MPP Laurie Scott was perhaps vindicated for saying recently there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ontarians. We’re nearly there. 

We just need to realize that nearly doesn’t mean now. If we’re able to keep that in mind, hopefully we can halt this awful pandemic in its tracks way before it celebrates a second infamous birthday.