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Letter: Touch deficit during pandemic

Kudos to Kenneth Boyko for his recent article Recognizing touch deficit and to the Advocate for publishing it on Jan. 6.
LtE bug

Kudos to Kenneth Boyko for his recent article Recognizing touch deficit and to the Advocate for publishing it on Jan. 6.

For those who have not yet read the opinion piece I highly recommend you do so as it highlights what many of us have been experiencing for almost two years of a pandemic that had taken a toll on everyone and continues to do so. At times in my life my Scottish genes have taken over creating a resistance to hugging at gatherings with friends and families but I swear that once this pandemic is officially over I will be the one initiating the hugs when we are able to gather safely and comfortably again.

It’s still not unusual for some of us, even those who are masked, double vaccinated, and boosted, to take a step backwards when another person encroaches into that designated two metre “social distancing” zone.

We all have become victims of data driven behavioural modifications and are prone to reflexively backing off when another person invades that prohibited space. Even in settings like the local grocery store we often move to the side as far as possible and turn our heads away when someone passes us with their grocery cart.

To some, for which touching amongst strangers is taboo, even a simple verbal touch performed by asking someone we don’t know how their day is going can leave a positive impression.

While we still rely on data on case numbers, hospitalizations and vaccination rates to make daily decisions and give advice to friends and family when they ask for it, and sometimes when they don’t, we can’t allow this thirst for data to cause us to lose our humanity. Compare listening to B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, to listening to Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, during their press conferences and you will understand better what I mean. Listening to Dr. Henry reminds us of listening to our mother, grandmother or aunt while they are baking an angel food cake in the kitchen. You actually begin to feel a bit at ease as Dr. Henry give us the latest depressing numbers in her province and almost come to tears with her as she passes on the latest fatalities caused by COVID. It’s disturbing to think anyone would send death threats to such a kind, caring person. Without criticizing Dr. Hinshaw, who I feel has performed an admirable service to Albertans in her role despite immense pressure from politicians above her and that portion of the population below her that oppose almost all health restrictions, she does come across a bit robotic and scripted in her press conferences and I don’t get that “warm and huggy” feeling that I usually get from Dr. Henry.

As we battle another surge clear messaging continues to be very important but how the message is communicated may be more important now than it has ever been. Actual and verbal touches can go a long way to providing a bright moment to someone’s otherwise difficult day.

John McBeath, Red Deer