Compared to most parts of Canada and the world, we have done well weathering the pandemic to date. Our case numbers have been low, and community spread has been limited. When regional outbreaks have occurred, they have been brought under control within the month.
There have been tragedies and there has been heartbreak. I vividly remember when Daniel Ouellette died on June 4th last year in Atholville. He was the first New Brunswicker to lose his life to COVID-19. It was my father’s 90th birthday that day. I walked into a meeting of the COVID Cabinet Committee to be told about Mr. Ouellette’s passing. Everyone was crestfallen. As unrealistic as it was to expect that the public health measures in place would prevent people from dying from this virus, I couldn’t help thinking about what might have been done differently. As of publication, 23 more New Brunswickers have died, some under very tragic circumstances. That number may seem comparatively small, but with two degrees of separation among most of us, it looms large.
The burden on those with decision-making responsibilities is immense.
We know what is needed: control our borders, test, contact trace, and effectively isolate people. People also need paid sick leave so they can afford to get tested, they need the ability to isolate if it is not possible in their homes, and those at greatest risk of serious illness or death need to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Hopefully, by spring, we will be able to travel freely among the four Atlantic provinces again, reconnecting with family, friends and places we love. However, travel outside the Atlantic bubble, and the public health requirements on return, are likely to get stricter as we defend against the more infectious variants of the original coronavirus.
By summer’s end, large numbers of us should be vaccinated. In the meantime, we soldier on. It’s not easy. It’s hard. We weren’t built to accommodate separation from each other. Nor do we cope well with never-ending stress. The pandemic will end. Before we get there, however, wise choices will need to be made to raise our defenses against the variants.
Action needs to be taken early, before it seems like we have a problem, in order to minimize the consequences of this new threat. The same applies to maintaining public health measures – it is precisely because of their effectiveness that case numbers are low. If they are relaxed inappropriately, we can become a hot zone.
The pandemic has revealed the fragility of our healthcare system and serious holes in our social safety net. These are some of the things I will concentrate on when we return to the Legislative Assembly in March.
The pandemic has helped refocus our attention on our region inside the Atlantic bubble. One example: as transportation services based in central Canada have been withdrawn, Campobello Islanders find themselves staring into a hot zone over the bridge to Lubec, Maine.
Whether it is our food supply, public transportation services, energy supplies, or access to high speed internet, the need for greater regional self-reliance must be back on the agenda. I will be talking about these issues when we return to the Legislative Assembly.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or Taeyon directly with any concerns or suggestions you may have. If you need help, please do not delay. Reach out to me if you don’t know where else to turn. My constituency office can be reached at 506-455-0936. You can reach me at email@example.com.