December 2020 broke the record for new COVID-19 infections in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region. That month saw 675 people test positive for the Novel Coronavirus, more than October and November’s new case numbers combined. So far this month, there have been 290 new infections. Should numbers continue on this path, the EOHU region may have upwards of 900 new cases at month’s end.
Adding to this statistical nightmare is that hospitalizations are up. Cornwall, which has more than one-third of all new infections in the health unit area since January 1st, has the only Level Three Intensive-Care Unit in the region and it is almost full. Winchester, Glengarry, and Hawkesbury hospitals have Level One and Two Critical Care units, but that is not the same.
Schools are online-only for now. Small businesses are curb-side pick-up and delivery only. Restaurants are take-out and delivery only. Except for big box stores, grocery stores, and workplaces where you cannot work remotely, the province is shut down. Yet numbers keep rising. This begs the question, what else can be done?
Quebec has begun curfews to keep people at home in the evening to try to stem the real cause of community spread – socializing. People are still gathering in groups, holding house parties and festivities. That needs to stop. It is too early to see if the actions in Quebec have had an impact but consider this, the last time a curfew was imposed in that province was during the terrorist FLQ crisis in 1970. Curfews have been all but ruled out for Ontario so far, but could come into play at some point. That said, more enforcement is needed.
The stance at the EOHU has been to favour education over enforcement. This pandemic has been around for over nine months in our region, it is safe to call the education phase over.
Is enforcement really the route we want to go? Do we want police and bylaw officers knocking on doors to check how many people are in a home when more than five cars are seen in a driveway? Do we want patrols by peace officers monitoring how many people are in a store? The answer to all those questions is no. But what other options are there? Asking nicely for people not to go skiing in Quebec, or for outings at multiple houses has not worked. The people are not listening or following the simple steps to help keep COVID-19 in check.
People have to do better. Period. Full stop. It is not the fault of government if citizens don’t follow public health guidance. There is personal responsibility that we all must bear.