Editorial: Time for tolerance

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Salt Spring got a wake-up call last week when a Ganges café worker tested positive for COVID-19.

Suddenly, anyone who had dined or had coffee at the Tree House Café was imagining themselves exposed to the virus and potentially spreading it to many others. The potential impact was huge.

At the same time, beliefs about how individuals and societies should be behaving these days — which seem to crystallize around whether or not to wear masks in various spaces — are unfortunately heightening the divisions between us.

Conspiracy theorists are out in force, throwing all manner of ammunition at what could be termed “majority” opinions about the best way to respond to the novel coronavirus. At the other end of the spectrum is intolerance for people who either do not wear masks, or not in places that others wish they would.

Anyone who pushes hard-and-fast positions should expect to be questioned, and there is nothing wrong with that. To not acknowledge that alternate ideas exist can be unrealistic. Disbelieving everything that comes from mainstream health or government sources can be dangerous.

Some people on the laissez-faire side of things have pointed to the low rate of transmission as evidence that our responses have been overkill. But all we really know is that whatever people have been doing in our region has resulted in few people contracting COVID-19. A less cautious approach, as adopted in some other areas of the world, would clearly have a less positive result.

We must remember that the main reason everything shut down once COVID-19 reached our shores was to prevent our health-care system from being overwhelmed. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, health-care workers represent 19 per cent of COVID cases to date but only eight per cent of the country’s labour workforce, which shows how vulnerable health-care workers are — and we for sure need those people to be healthy and alive.

Our governments’ responses have on the whole been balanced. And on the economic front, B.C.‘s August labour force report had total employment at 94 per cent of the pre-pandemic level in February, so the economy is far from being shut down at this point, as some people claim.

Everyone has had to adapt to life amid a pandemic, and it’s not so onerous to follow public-health guidance. We just have to do some things differently, and one of those is to exercise more tolerance for each other. 

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