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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

We need to care a little more

BY Xavier Kataquapit Apr 11, 2023

Almost 52,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Canada to date that we know of. Most of them have been older people and those with existing health problems. Younger and middle-aged people have also died, but in general most who were vaccinated did not end up in a hospital or succumb to this terrible virus.

The problem is that Covid is still circulating and making people sick. Testing does not seem to be picking up the virus all the time and this is resulting in people thinking they just have a cold or the flu, which is often not the case. The bigger problem is that we all were gathering this winter thinking and hoping the pandemic was very much over. Elders and people with health problems are among those gathering and that has not been good for many of them. So, many Elders with health issues have been getting sick, ending up in the hospital and some passing away.

You would think that after three years of going through this pandemic and learning so much about disease and vaccines, we would have figured out that the virus will be around for some time and change into many variants along the way. We know by now that younger people and those in good health are not dying or being hospitalized with Covid, but we also know that our grandparents, older friends and those with health issues can get very sick and die.

Why is it that we all seem to have forgotten that to a great degree and we are not being careful to protect these vulnerable groups of people? Why are we continuing and have done so all winter in gathering these vulnerable people for events without thinking about how dangerous this could be? The reality is that things are not back to normal and Covid is still around. The data shows it is less prevalent and less serious than before, but it still can endanger Elders and people in poor health.

Even in the good old days before this pandemic we saw that the flu killed between 3,000 and 4,000 people every year in Canada and, of course, most of these were Elders and people with health problems. At this point I think we realize that our society does not have enough respect and appreciation for older people. We tend to marginalize them to a great degree and push them into private old-age homes that in some cases have not been good experiences.

These people built our society, they raised all families and are the reason we are here, so why are we exposing them to viruses that can make them very sick or even die? We know that any kind of virus or sickness can be easily transmitted to this vulnerable population, but we just don’t get it. We are not doing our best to protect them.

We are getting a lot more data now on how Covid affected us and how the vaccinations performed. There are so many people with long Covid and all kinds of health issues, including autoimmune disease, heart problems, lung problems and clotting. We are learning more about what we have been through for the past three years. However, the biggest thing we should have learned is that Elders and those with health problems are the ones most affected by Covid and other transmittable diseases.

Why on earth is that not important enough to remember? We could have these wonderful Elders and vulnerable people in our lives for many more years. We could benefit from their experience, their stories and the kindness and love they bring to our world. 

Covid is still around and, not long ago, hospitals and old-age homes in my part of Ontario had outbreaks. We know it is around and there is no doubt about that. Hopefully, with spring here and summer on its way this pandemic will be less threatening, and we can gather more safely in the outdoors and not be cooped up inside.

We all need the freedom to move around, meet up with family and friends and enjoy being out and about. However, we must remember that Elders and vulnerable sections of our society are still in danger of picking up a virus and getting very sick and possibly passing away. So, if you have Covid in any form, a flu, a cold or some illness is it too much to ask for us to protect our grandfathers, grandmothers and the vulnerable? 

I think this is very easy to do as all we have to do is care a little more. 

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.