I’ve been watching the news quite a bit these last few weeks because there isn’t much else to do for one thing, and all this has led me to these thoughts:
- A few years ago my sister bought a board game titled Pandemic. And every time we played it as a family, we lost. We used to think we were doing something wrong. Now I think it's the nature of the beast.
- To be sure, we are fallible beings with a death sentence hanging over our heads; we cannot do everything right. And the death sentence is a consequence of Original sin, so there’s no way we can win this even if we tried, if winning means preventing people from dying.
- If we look at which countries are doing best, only a handful come to mind: Germany and some east Asian countries.
- Canada seems to do relatively well, but it depends on the provinces. Those with the lowest population density are better off than those with higher densities, and Ontario is doing better than Québec for one reason: there are fewer seniors in residences for seniors and nursing homes in Ontario than in Québec. It seems to be a cultural thing in Québec to pack off the grandparents to the nearest home at the earliest opportunity, a trait that is not shared by provinces where the majority language is English, and that will have to be revisited once we have time to think about it collectively.
- In Québec the government prepared for the crisis by sending as many seniors who were in acute-care hospitals to nursing homes so as to free up the hospital beds only to find that the highest number of cases were in seniors’ residences and nursing homes, and the tally is now of 1,042 deaths, 82% of which were in residences and nursing homes.
- The main reason(s) for that is neglect. The care for seniors in nursing homes had been put on the back burner by generations of governments with no one addressing some urgent issues to the point now of having the highest number of deaths even though our province is only the second in terms of population. This is something we will have to address once the worst of the pandemic is past.
- In a way, Québec prepared for COVID-19 like the hospitals of New York prepared for 9/11: in both cases they were expecting a lot of patients in acute-care hospitals, and that’s not what happened. In Québec’s case, sending all the seniors to residences or nursing homes increased the density and risk of contamination with the results that we see; and in the case of New York’s response to 9/11, they were expecting a lot of injured people but got mostly corpses.
Despite his government’s mistakes, which are forgivable considering that handling this pandemic is like building a plane as you fly it, Premier Legault’s approval rating circles around the 83% mark. But he got this approval from the way he and his government have been managing the catastrophe. At the beginning he also gave daily briefings—now they only take place on weekdays—and he was assisted by Minister of Health and Social Services Danièle McCann and Director of Public Health Dr. Horatio Arruda. These two individuals still accompany him on most daily briefings and answer questions that reporters ask of them after Mr. Legault has made a presentation about the daily tally of deaths and what the provincial government intends to do and how to go about it. In both French and English. All three officials speak calmly and rationally. In fact, to give our American brothers and sisters a ballpark figure, I’d say that Premier Legault’s briefings resemble Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings more than those of their country’s president. That is not to say that Legault is the only one to run his province rationally, but I don’t get to see how other premiers do their briefings. Canada is a huge country and there is only so much the news can show.