David Staples: Spare us from the madness of COVID extremists

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Spare us from the madness of COVID extremists.

Spare us from their scolding, their unholy certainty, their fears, paranoia and proselytizing.

I say this as Premier Jason Kenney announced new restrictions to combat COVID spread on Thursday. We have over 21,000 active cases, the most we’ve had since the start of the pandemic, with 151 in intensive care, also a new record.

Targeted public health measures will go into effect for hot spots, including Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary, with all junior and senior high schools going online and indoor fitness and sports shut down for at least two weeks, Kenney said.

If you get a fine and don’t pay you now won’t be able to renew your driver’s licence, Kenney said. “This is for people who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously.”

There will no doubt be an uproar about the new measures, outcries that Kenney hasn’t done enough and is courting disaster or, because he did take action, louder counterclaims that the government has shut down too much and is heading to dictatorship.


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Of course, we’re all free to exercise our free speech but COVID fatigue is hitting hard, and I’m especially tired of all brands of fearmongering.

I’d like to assure the keenest proponents of this or that theory or plan that by now you have definitely been heard and noted.

Anti-vaxxers, we know well you’re convinced this is an unprecedented and dangerous science experiment. That said, we’re still getting jabs or have already gotten them. Miraculously, we still yet breathe.

And COVID-zero fans, this may come as a shock but we are fully aware that Australia and New Zealand, which once had extreme lockdown measures, are now wide open and virus free. If only there was a way to move Alberta off a crowded, busy continent to an isolated corner of the Pacific Ocean.

To anti-lockdown hawks, thank you for pointing out the brutal social and economic harms of lockdown, and for sharing another study questioning the effectiveness of lockdowns in controlling spread. But is it OK if we carefully weigh such harms and doubts against the prospect of hundreds more Albertans dying or thousands getting severely ill?

Finally, for the safety-at-all-costs crowd, we agree that dying from COVID is a tragedy, no argument there. And, indeed, there might well be some hideous doomsday variant still on the horizon. Meanwhile, why not share another anecdote you read online about just how scary long COVID is? The dread failed to sink in the first 999 million times you mentioned it.


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As for the Alberta government’s latest move, Kenney is bobbing down the middle of a rough stream, just as he’s been doing for months now. He’s muddling along.

Just now, he’s avoided the hardcore restrictions fellow Conservative Premier Doug Ford recently resorted to in Ontario. Among other things, Ford banned outdoor tennis, golfing and skateboard park activity. At first, he also banned going to the playground, before backing off.

The Alberta government’s restraint here is sensible, as was made clear to me earlier this week talking to University of Alberta professor John Spence from Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation.

“Something I would say we absolutely should not do — which is what Ontario recently did — is ban access to public spaces. We just think that’s one of the biggest mistakes,” Spence said. “As long as you’re outdoors your risk of transmission is very low unless you’re in some large groups of people.”

Spence and other researchers are well aware that a solid mix of good diet, sound sleeping habits and physical activity can help ward off the worst symptoms of the disease and also keep people sane during long months of lockdown restrictions.

There’s been an overall decrease in physical activity levels during the pandemic but not as substantial a drop as some might think, Spence said, based on pandemic studies he and other researchers have done.

There’s mainly been a shift in activity, such as people out walking around their own neighbourhood as opposed to going to the gym. As Spence put it, “We’re adapting. It’s not necessarily because we think we should be physically active. For many people it’s because they’re bored stiff. They just want to get out of the house.”

It’s encouraging to hear we’ve adapted. We’re muddling through.

At the level of government policy, muddling through is unpopular with folks who crave dramatic action, but I’m OK with it. You’ll make up your own minds.

As for the extremists, they will keep pushing, just as they’ve pushed since day one. We’ve heard them out but that’s not the same as being persuaded.



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