Editorial: Long weekend traffic calls for renewed vigilance

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Everyone is tiring of the isolation regime imposed by the arrival of the COVID-19 virus; if we didn’t know it already, recent polls have pretty much confirmed it—we are lonely and feel we have done our part. The numbers show that it has largely worked, with only 65 cases in the Public Health Sudbury and Districts and barely four confirmed cases here on Manitoulin Island, the first two being travellers who self-isolated and contained the virus. But it isn’t over until it’s over and the full consensus of all of the credible medical and scientific community says quite emphatically that it is most definitely not over.

As the volume of traffic indicated over this past long weekend, certainly down from years past but well up from the norm, even for a sunny long weekend following the end of yet another dreary winter, the opportunities for community spread on Manitoulin’s shores has just taken a quantum and perhaps exponential leap. We cannot afford to let our guard down—not for some time yet.

We will only be able to fully congratulate ourselves if we should prove able to avoid the deaths that have rocked much of the globe over the past few weeks. We have proven that we can pull this off, if only we can endeavour to set aside our isolation exhaustion for a while yet and continue to shield ourselves and our loved ones from this insidious and most unwelcome of invaders.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to those kind souls who decided to forgo their traditional Victoria Day weekend visit to their Island properties to help protect us from the spread of this dangerous virus. In the social media storm that is the 21st century it is far too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on those who decided to exercise their right to travel to their Island cottages and camps, while forgetting those who have made a sacrifice on our behalf.

In the fear-engendered hysteria that too often plays out on Facebook and other so-called “social” media sites, off-Island visitors and summer residents could easily fall into the trap of thinking that we, as an Island, are full blown xenophobes with a total and abiding distrust and dislike of those coming from away. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Fear of the unknown and terror for the possible fate awaiting their vulnerable family members has led some Islanders to express anger towards those who do not live here on a permanent basis, but it is important for all of us to tap into that well of humanity and kindness for which we are best known to the outside world.

Many of us depend on the tourist season for our livelihood and most of us have close friends and relatives to be found among those who are counted as being from away. In fact, a very significant number of those people coming to the Island over the long weekend do not consider themselves to be strangers or to fall into the category of “from away.”

It is in our collective interest to recognize that we are all human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and understanding. It isn’t easy. It isn’t going to get any easier for a good while either. There is little more exhausting than maintaining a constant sense of fear and anger, and in the end that exhaustion only tends to lower our immune systems—the very definition of a counterintuitive result.

So, as the warmer summer weather approaches, and with it comes  the inevitable increase in Island population, we must continue to protect ourselves through our own vigilant actions—maintaining a physical distance, maintaining proper hygiene, washing our hands, regularly sterilizing common areas, getting tested if we show any of the known symptoms of COVID-19 and perhaps even wearing masks in order to protect those around us from any asymptomatic infection we might carry. 

Above all, however, as we protect ourselves from this invisible foe we must remember to simply be kind.