Outside a Tim Hortons, a cluster of 60 year old men gather, chatting and drinking coffee, masks on chins.
Liquor store line-ups extend around the corner, people stocking up for weekend gatherings.
A woman rides the subway to work at a suburban warehouse. She’s feeling exhausted, achy and has chills but had to choose between getting paid or getting tested.
An RV drives down Yonge Street, a signboard on the top scrolls: “mRNA COVID vaccines will destroy your DNA & you will lose your soul!”
Today I ride my bike through the forest, emerging at Sunnybrook Hospital. A parking lot is fenced off. A sign on the fence reads: “MHU (Mobile Health Unit) Entrance. Authorized Access Only.
Cases here in Ontario are rapidly increasing and are mostly “Variants of Concern” that transmit faster, give more serious symptoms and with more likelihood of death. They are going up so quickly with daily numbers having doubled in less than a week. (6,000 new cases in the past two days alone). Hospitals and ICUs are so strained that people have been airlifted to more rural areas to make room for more COVID patients here. And that mobile health unit? It’s a field hospital with over 80 beds to handle overflow from the hospital.
The government has instituted a “lockdown”. There are no travel restrictions, we’re encouraged to stay home. We’re told that stores carrying “unnecessary” items can remain open as long as they operate at 25% capacity or less. Don’t go outside, but if you need to buy some throw pillows, go ahead. If you’d prefer to be more cautious order online and have it delivered. However, not all delivery staff, warehouse staff or factory staff have paid sick time. And with such mixed messaging from the government, people are taking risks. How serious can it be if I can still go to the store and pick up a new video game? Meanwhile, health care providers have been unified in how seriously they’re taking it:
Seeing the field hospital up close is shocking. They’re not finished yet – you can see a shed full of hoses to get water service ready for washing and bathrooms. As I ride home I imagine the soon-to-be residents of these tents, looking across the parking lot at the full hospital. I imagine the healthcare workers now stretched to accommodate another 80+ patients after a year of being stretched and I can’t imagine it. And it was avoidable. Australia showed us, Vietnam showed us, New Zealand showed us, Korea and Thailand showed us. We saw these examples and we’ve made a choice.
I arrive at my apartment building. One of the elevators is down and as a result the lobby is filled with waiting people. An elevator arrives and several people leave. The usual recommended two people go in and then they gesture to the others. Four more people join them in the three foot by five foot space inside. Another elevator comes, another six people board. It takes ten minutes for the back up to clear but I finally am able to get on an empty elevator.
Two hours later our grocery delivery arrives. I give the driver a large tip. I can’t pay for his sick time but hopefully enough of us are giving money that if he needs it, he can take the time to get a test and take care of himself.