The Pensioner and the Pandemic and ...

The Government Wants to Lock Me in My Room

Well this blog post is taking somewhat of a change of direction from that planned, which was to focus on the benefits of being a retired pensioner at this time, since the Ontario government is telling me that I will suddenly be at risk for COVOD-19 on my birthday in a few days and should (or must, depending on the source) self-isolate for 14 days after which I will be fine again (or maybe not, depending on the source).

This puts me in a strange position as someone who has been critical of those who do not listen to the experts and health authorities on the verge of engaging in civil disobedience by ignoring them. I am put in a position where they want me to change my healthy lifestyle and lock myself in a room for two weeks (or longer) presumably because of a statistical relationship between age and a presumed greater degree of risk COVID-19.

From the Ontario government website.

Self-isolating means staying at home and avoiding contact with other people to help prevent the spread of disease to others in your home and your community.
All persons over 70 years of age and individuals who are immunocompromised are advised to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This means that you should only leave your home or see other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands. (The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Ontario.ca)

From the results page for the COVID-19 self-assessment with all questions answered in the negative except for age over 70. (Coronavirus (COVID-19) self-assessment)

Self-assessment result

You must self-isolate at home and monitor your health because you are part of an at-risk group.

You are in an at-risk group because you said one of the following applies to you:

    • are over 70 years of age

You must self-isolate, which means:

  • only leave your home or see other people for critical reasons (like a medical emergency)
  • seek services over the phone or online or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours
  • do not go into a hospital or clinic to get a COVID-19 test unless you are asked to by a health care provider

The first thing one notices if one reads carefully is that the first references uses “advised” and “for a period of 14 days” and the second reference uses “must” and has no reference to a time period.

And the latest, as reported by CTV News refers to “strongly recommending”.

TORONTO -- Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr. David Williams ) is now recommending that all people over the age of 70 self-isolate given the elevated risk of "severe outcomes" should they contract COVID-19.

"Given the greater risk of severe outcomes to Ontarians who are elderly, I am also strongly recommending that individuals over 70 years of age self-isolate," Williams wrote. "This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands."

Meanwhile people over 70 comprise only 14% of COVID-19 cases in Canada as reported in this Ottawa Citizen article: "New data: Middle-aged Canadians most likely to catch COVID-19, so far". The percentage of Canadians over 65 was 14% in 2010 and growing (Statistics Canada) making it clear that the percentage of COVID-19 cases among those over 70 today is clearly below that of the general population. We are at less risk statistically not more risk.

But that really is not the point. There clearly is a subset of older Canadians with health concerns that require them to be more cautious and take more precautions, as there are within all age groups, in particular those that are immunocompromised and those that smoke or vape, due to the respiratory nature of the disease.

A blanket policy based on age discrimination does not seem to be the way to deal with health concerns that are specific to individuals and is not going to sit well with my comrades in this generation.

Fortunately there has been no indication that the province will use legal instruments to enforce this which is probably a good thing because we are a generation that grew up with civil disobedience.

COVID-19 and Poverty/Inequality

At the same time another important factor of this pandemic is one that has almost entirely been ignored by the establishment press, or mainstream media as it is sometimes called, and that is economic status.

When it comes to underlying health factors that make individuals more susceptible to the virus and less able to combat it economic status is a big determinant. It determines the quality of nutrition, as well as housing conditions (overcrowding, etc.) and other lifestyle factors, as well as the quality of health care one has access to. This is not just on an individual basis but also on a societal one with poorer countries in a much more difficult position to fight off the pandemic. Yet we see very little written about that in the media.

As we see with the rapid response to COVID-19, compared with the feeble response to climate change, governments are much better at reacting to acute crisis than to chronic problems. We see this as governments quickly jump in to deal with symptoms of climate change like flooding or hurricanes while their response to the real problem is feeble.

COVID-19 has brought with it not just a health crisis but an economic one, one that has affected the group governments claim to care most about, the middle class. Governments are scrambling to deal with the loss of jobs and income while also trying to deal with a major health crisis.

But what if they had taken inequality seriously. What if we had a guaranteed basic income (such as that proposed by Conservative Hugh Segal) in place. The government would not have had to scramble and stumble into implementing make shift programs. The solution for those displaced from employment and income would already have been in place

Postscript: The Great Outdoors is Closed

And apparently now the outdoors is closed in Ontario.

In a news release on Monday night, Ford announced a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The order closes all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds, effective immediately.

He said the extension of the declared emergency and the new emergency order are based on the advice of Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

According to the news release, the new order closes all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities in Ontario. These include playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, beaches, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, park shelters, outdoor exercise equipment, condo parks and gardens, and other outdoor recreational amenities.

Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren't closed are to remain open for people to walk through, but people must maintain a distance of at least two metres apart. Ontario's provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed. (Ontario extends state of emergency by 2 weeks as number of COVID-19 cases now 1,706 | CBC News)

Healthy lifestyles are what will create a population most resilient to health challenges such as COVID-19. Being out in nature and exercising contribute greatly to this. At a time when we are encouraging, indeed requiring, physical distancing (previously referred to as social distancing) it seems counterproductive to close those areas that provide the space for people to practice physical distancing without locking themselves up in their homes in fear.

Final Words

None of this is to say that we should not take this seriously and listen to the health experts when they tell us to practice physical distancing to reduce the spread of the disease.


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