Covid-19 has changed all of us. We have not lived a normal life for the last six months. We have all been trying our best to follow the rules set up by the medical experts and governments, but it has not been easy. Most of us have not been visiting family and friends, we are keeping our movements to a minimum, shopping more carefully in stores while wearing masks, maintaining a two-metre distance from others and washing our hands like crazy.
For some time, our efforts have proven successful but still many thousands have passed away in Canada and many more thousands have been sick with this virus. Now with the fall starting and children back at school, the experts are warning us that there may be a huge rise in numbers of cases and deaths. This is an airborne virus that can infect others through microscopic droplets that people release when just talking indoors. So, if an asymptomatic person is not wearing a mask in an indoor space with others, then there is a good chance that the contagion will spread to many people.
Due to the fact we are not doing sufficient testing, epidemiologists and virologist suggest multiplying the number of cases by 10 or perhaps even 20. This provides us with a more realistic idea of just how many people are infected and although most are centred in highly populated areas, infections are now starting to creep into our northern Native communities.
The James Bay western coast region recently reported its first positive case of Covid-19 – in Moose Factory. The coastal First Nations to the north, including my home community of Attawapiskat, all locked down their communities to prevent the spread of any potential infection.
Our northern communities must stay extra vigilant as any new infectious disease has the possibility of creating many more problems than the rest of the country due to the nature and situation of these remote regions. Overcrowded housing, less-than-adequate healthcare, insufficient healthcare resources and rampant poverty is fertile ground for a new infectious disease to cause a widespread health crisis.
Even in the face of these dangers, there are many right-wing groups on social media saying that Covid-19 is a hoax, that the government is staging this pandemic and that wearing masks somehow impedes our rights and freedoms. If you want to protect those you love and care about, do not fall for this propaganda or spread this disinformation because it will cost lives in the end.
Many business interests are focusing on the economy. That concern is pushing people to get back to normal with few restrictions. It is understandable that the people who work in these industries want you to think that you can get back to normal quickly, but the reality is not supporting that view.
If we don’t follow the rules to protect ourselves, we will be getting sick, making other people sick, and people we know will die. Over the next few months, we will see a huge increase in numbers across the board and that is evident by what is happening in other parts of the world.
Now that we are approaching the cold season and we will be heading indoors more often, I encourage everyone to be more vigilant in wearing masks, practicing safe distancing and washing hands. I encourage my family and friends in the North and in every remote First Nation to minimize or curtail travel outside their community. Everyone should do their best to not visit family and friends indoors while not wearing a mask. The virus spreads through tiny droplets that can hang around the air inside a room for hours so if someone is visiting without a mask there is always the chance you could end up with Covid-19 if they have the virus.
We need to get through the next few months and in that time, we will know just how bad things are going to progress or if, in fact, we have better treatments and possibly a vaccine. There are thousands of unsuspecting people walking around with this virus and you are playing Russian roulette if you think you can ignore the rules and the efforts everyone has made for months.
Just stay the course and look towards a brighter spring.