I should have come away from Monday’s briefing feeling elated. After all, we finally had a partial mask mandate in schools, something we have been pleading for since last summer. Instead, I came away totally deflated at the abysmal leadership we have in this province. The briefing confirmed that the three people leading us in this pandemic have no concept of how to be effective leaders. Just examine the performance of Premier Horgan, Minister Dix and PHO Henry.
Mr. Horgan began the briefing by announcing that throughout the year he and his government were following the advice of Dr. Henry. In doing so, he was attempting to absolve himself of any responsibility for any of the bad news we were about to hear. What leader says: “hey folks, it is not my fault!”. If that was not enough, he went on to find a scapegoat when he said don’t all you 20 to 39-year-old young people “blow it for the rest of us”! What an asinine statement! When things are tough, good leaders take responsibility and seek solutions. They do not look for scapegoats!
Mr. Dix took the podium and said words to the effect that labels do not matter. ‘Call it a surge, call it a spike, call it a third wave—it doesn’t matter, it is what it is’. What?? It does matter! You treat a spike or a surge much differently than a third wave. In leadership words matter, in a pandemic definitions matter and if our Minister of Health does not care about being precise how are we going to offer effective and appropriate actions to reduce these numbers. Leaders care about being clear when they are communicating in a crisis. This is not leadership.
And then we have Dr. Henry. She could not even say the word mandate but talked about encouraging and supporting mask wearing. It took 12 hours of confusion and, finally, a clear statement from the Minister of Education to put the “masks are required “wording in place. Good leaders do not obfuscate; they take clear and decisive action. Saying “well. It is a challenge” is not leadership! Tackling the challenge with courage and confidence is the leadership that is expected of a PHO. Think of how weak the actions were that really came out of this briefing.
First, the mask mandate. This is only a partial mask mandate because it does not include K-3. She has said it would be mentally challenging for the youngest students. This is utter nonsense. I have been in schools in Asia before the pandemic where pre-K students all wore masks to ensure no colds or flu was passed on to the classmate. These were happy, lovely little kids for whom mask wearing was just expected. We already have some K classes fully masked and doing fine. The action today is seven months late and only a half measure.
Second, the closing of Whistler. This measure was taken two weeks too late and was politically motivated. Whistler contributes one million dollars a day to the government coffers. Anyone in Government who was paying attention knew what would happen at Whistler in spring break. It is party city for EVERY age level—I lived in Whistler; I know! Whistler was kept open over spring break for political reasons even though the pandemic was spiraling out of control. And why close it on Monday? This date protected the American company from having to give any refunds to season pass holders. If it had been closed one day earlier pass holders would have been entitled to a refund. This action, like the mask mandate came too late and was politically motivated.
Closing restaurants: What a tragedy this is. These operations, often operating on a shoestring, are given no notice so their food spoilage will be high. These businesses have followed every order from the PHO, yet they are singled out as the problem child. What about the gatherings in shopping malls or the crowded classrooms in schools? If we need to lockdown, we need to lockdown! These half measures taken against the same small sector of the economy do nothing and make no logical sense. It is patently unfair and does not exemplify the bold leadership we need.
Rescinding relaxation of religious services: this is not an action. The relaxations were not yet in effect and should not have been considered in the first place.
Restricting gyms to one on one. Refer to restaurants above. A minor measure meant to look like an important action as our numbers spiral out of control.
Essential travel only. People may travel only to work or for medical reasons. This is a nice idea but totally unenforceable unless there is a broader lockdown.
A request to work from home where possible. My daughter has been doing this for a year now as are many others. It is a restatement of what most responsible companies are already doing. This is not new and therefore not impactful.
This briefing was a disaster. We attacked the young people who have kept our economy going while suffering the negative effects of this pandemic more than most populations. In Canada, the under 19 age group has a similar number of infections to the population in their 20’s. Perhaps the younger group is a problem group. I do not think either should be blamed! I think the problem lies with the lack of leadership and I think the Premier, Mr. Dix and the PHO need to look in the mirror.
It is time we had real leadership that was courageous and decisive using proven methodologies and not half measures. Last spring, we were justifiably proud because we were first in both Canada and North America. Why? Because we made the tough decisions required. We took much more drastic action by putting in much more restrictive measures. We accepted that schools were vectors of transmission. We switched to remote learning except for children of essential workers and some children with exceptional needs. We did not look for scapegoats but closed a broader sector of our economy such as construction sites and medical offices. We led the country in our attack of this deadly virus.
Since August, our leaders have taken us to the worst in Canada for cases per capita and the worst in North America for the dangerous P1 variant. How did we get here?
Our testing program is the worst in the country. Today we did 7,759 tests and found 1013 cases whereas Quebec did 29,840 tests and found 1025 cases. Our testing program is pathetic and does not give us the real data needed to deal with the virus effectively. If these numbers do not worry you, they should.
We refuse to accept the role schools are playing in the spread. Last week, Brisbane had seven cases and closed all their schools. WHO recommends closing schools at 5% positivity rate. we Our positivity is 9.8% and the best we can muster is to put in a partial mask mandate seven months late.
Our messaging is mixed, and our program rollout is awful. Parents get exposure notices two or three weeks after the event. Just look at the confusion over the mask mandate today or the initial use of pharmacies to dispense the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Look at our slow vaccination rate. My fireman son-in-law still does not have a vaccine and has no idea when he can get one while Earl’s Ambleside restaurant workers already have the vaccine only to be laid off. My 100-year-old father-in-law cannot get his second dose until June even though the research is clear that seniors antibodies wane quickly and should get the second dose within the drug company recommended timelines. We are in a dangerous human experiment run by an incompetent leadership team!
We have been led down the garden path with the mantra from the PHO that we “have to learn to live with this virus”! That is not what Jacinda Ardern said in New Zealand! She exhibited bold and courageous leadership in taking the virus to its knees. Australia, Korea, and Taiwan did the same. We cannot live with this virus as the variants pose serious danger to a younger and younger population. We are doing too little hoping the vaccine will bail us out. We need to change our approach.
We absolutely need to re-double our vaccination efforts perhaps by running clinics 24/7 as our supply increases. But, in the meantime, our numbers dictate that we must go back to the measures we took last spring. Starting at Easter, we need to close schools to all but children of essential workers. We need to close all non-essential retail. We need to close non-essential work sites. And we must stop all non-essential travel. We need to take decisive and bold action and we need a leadership team to do that.
Our current leaders have taken us from first to worst and they are refusing to take responsibility for this failure. This needs to change TODAY!!
Doug Player, March 31, 2021.