David Marsden: When it comes to COVID-19, let science be our guide

Central Albertans can take comfort in the fact that all the decisions made around the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be medically based.

Like most countries, Canada is attempting to flatten the curve, as they say, so medical staff can cope with the ever-rising number of cases that are expected of the virus.

It’s to governments’ credit that they have responded without undue consideration of the cost.

Health is the foundation of everything. Without it, nothing else is attainable, or desirable. It’s all that matters.

So we should continue to clamp down on the virus, but it shouldn’t, by necessity, be an inexorable pathway with an inevitable cascade of demands.

There are models to be followed, and it’s to be expected that our governments will follow the best practices possible, to the extent that such ideals are known.

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It was one thing, for instance, for governments to seemingly agree that gatherings of 250 people were fine one day, and then decide functions attended by more than 50 people were appropriate the next day.

But now, why are some provincial governments restricting liquor store hours, when anyone with a thought in their head would realize it will just lead to more people crowding into limited space?

Surely, if you wanted to encourage social distance, you would extend the hours of liquor outlets, just as you would for any other business meeting heavy demand.

More curious yet is the Quebec government’s decision to only sell lottery tickets online.

So, it’s OK to paw over that pack of gum at the counter and cough on the bags of chips at the back of the place, only to deprive the owner of the corner store a bit of revenue from the sale of a 6/49 ticket that’s spit off the end of a roll of paper?

More worrisome yet, British Columbia has forced the province’s restaurants to close their dining rooms.

In other words, restaurateurs have been told to rely on takeout and pickup, leaving much of their profits and the earnings of their employees on the table. That doesn’t make sense when other gatherings of less than 50 people are acceptable in the province.

Social distancing is tremendously important, as doctors have said. But there’s no reason to think that if patrons are sat safely apart from one another, and hygiene remains top of mind, that the public can’t enjoy a brief respite.

Again, if there is a medical case to be made for such measures, make it.

The last thing we want to do is spend billions of dollars protecting our collective health, but then later realize we fell short in the precautions we took.

That would be foolish and we would pay a tremendous price for such a miscalculation.

The other thing we don’t want to do is capriciously shut down restaurants and small businesses, the backbone of our economy, which could use a few customers to keep the lights on.

Governments, and the public they serve, face a tall task.

We must keep ourselves safe.

And when the pandemic has passed, we must hope there are places where entrepreneurs and the people they employ can build healthy lives.

They’re the ones, after all, who will pay for tomorrow’s health-care costs, as well as today’s.

No society, despite unrestrained spending, will survive if there’s no economic pulse.

Let science be our guide.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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