Ideas and Impressions: ‘We are all at home wondering what’s next’

By Jason Moscovitz

Where to begin? I remember Pierre Trudeau once asking in a difficult constitutional time, “Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?” Maybe the end of the beginning fits where we are with COVID-19. Maybe.

From the moment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump began to take drastic measures, it was clear they both arrived late at realizing the rampaging virus was about to hit us, too – like so many other countries where the numbers around the world total in the hundreds of thousands. The only constant, here and elsewhere, is that each day has been worse than the day before.

While it is pointless now to say leadership fell short, history will remember that Trump insisted COVID-19 was a hoax, then he declared it a national emergency, then a war, before going back to minimizing it again. I can’t wait for the book to be written that will explain what information led Trump to be briefly truthful. I can speculate it was the scientific projection of so many Americans dying.

To grind our society to a halt in an attempt to better control the time period for people to get sick is so huge it aptly demonstrates the enormity of this. And that’s in a Canadian healthcare system whose emergency rooms were already overwhelmed with victims suffering from a normal flu, let alone the plague of COVID-19.

“Social-distancing” is a term I cannot recall ever hearing before – and certainly not in this context. The definition of a pandemic: First China, South Korea and Japan, then Israel, Iran, Italy, Spain, France and Great Britain, then it was us, and virtually the whole world.

The impact of closing down cities for an undetermined amount of time is hard to minimize. Only a war-measures-like-act could close so many businesses and stop so many people from working. No jobs, no money, no spending. The economy dies and our way of life dies with it.

In recessionary times, governments often say the economy needs to be primed. In these times of COVID-19, the economy needed to be primed, goosed and kick-started. The only way that could be done is to provide the unemployed and their families the cash they need to eat, stay alive and have enough left to buy what they need. Their spending keeps the economy moving.

The Trudeau government’s deficit of $18 billion in a stagnating economy was a problem before COVID-19 became a bigger problem. We are now clearly on problem number two. The deficit be damned – even if the cost of keeping the economy going could possibly triple or quadruple the deficit.

The virus and the economy are both changing our lives in ways we never could have imagined. We all heard the experts using the term “potential pandemic” in December. We all heard it and we all hoped not. Unfortunately, political leadership in Canada and the U.S. hoped as we did. We all lost the bet.

Three of my children and their families live in three different countries and we have never talked so much on WhatsApp. We are all at home wondering what’s next.

I think I have a lasting image of this time of trouble. There was an older woman wearing a mask in Spain on the street in front of a hospital. The poor soul couldn’t breathe. Her husband had died of COVID-19 overnight in the hospital. She was on the street, crying out for help between gasps. She had been told that morning that she wasn’t sick enough to stay in the hospital. Not sick enough? How about not young enough?

It was clear what happened. If a 40-year-old and a 75-year-old both needed a bed and ventilator, the older person was not going to get it. Whether in Spain, Italy or anywhere in North America, doctors would say they had to make a choice a doctor never likes to make. The image and the sounds of that dying woman in Spain spoke to the life we’ve been living.

A life of sickness, fear and heartache.