Collected thoughts after yesterday’s Covid-19 press conference in MTL:
Coherence is an endangered animal.
After Legault and Plante’s (I’m sure titillating) private meeting yesterday morning, it was finally announced that MTL schools will be kept closed. Whew. Does that feel hard-won by anyone else? But the part that had me snickering was the ‘until August’ bit. Several times Legault insisted that schools would stay closed until ‘late August or early September,’ once again creating an outlier of our wondrous province, as it chooses to hang on by such a thin thread to this antiquated CAQist notion that Quebec’s fight against Covid is ‘at another level.’ August and September are worlds apart, dontcha know. Not to mention, when asked what he would do for special needs kids now that they can’t go to school, he and Plante (who, to me, comes off as a groveler at these public regurgitations) both agreed they would ‘look for other options,’ but the one idea Legault seemed to have when pressed was for teachers to be in touch with kids at home, and give ’em homework. Don’t get me wrong–not knocking that if it works–but I fail to understand why they seem to need an intensive brainstorm on other options when, hmm, I dunno, offering meaningful support for food programs, and for women’s shelters (who only got a third of what they asked for in Tuesday’s budget) have been on the table all along as other ways of supporting families, some of whom haven’t had any options *other than* sending kids to school. And then, there’s cancelling rent, of course…But I guess I can see how that option is easy to forget about. On the bright side, Legault is finally hip to saying that children are, in fact, vectors of the virus, and can pass it onto grandparents (in case you missed the memo, grandparents were suddenly allowed to ‘babysit’ their grandkids–with precautions in place–around the same time people in their 60s were told to go back to work in daycares). Now if that isn’t coherent, I don’t know what is.
The second announcement at our regularly scheduled festival of coherence and confusion was that while schools would stay closed till at least August, MTL daycares might be able to open their doors by June 1–effectively tacking an extra week onto the most recent May 25th idea. Makes sense–didn’t you read that study about kids under 5 being immune to all this shit? Oh yeah, never mind, minor fantasy.
When broaching the topic of opening businesses in MTL, Legault made it clear that although business groups were after him to stick to May 25th, that it might or might not be possible, depending on ‘how it goes,’ emphasizing that health comes first, so they’ll have to see. I almost choked on my own tongue when he said that. And he made it abundantly clear for those sectors that have already opened, as well as businesses outside of MTL that have opened, that even as work resumes, Quebecers should continue to refrain from relaxing distancing measures with family & friends. So wait, lemme see if I follow: health comes first for some…but work comes first for others…and family/friends are a possible eventual reward for those who happen to survive this.
**For all of the above, the only clear plan is still, and always has been, a list of dates, subject to constant change. While Legault says that the # of cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and free beds are all concrete ways they’re measuring the situation, they have yet to share what goals, if any, need be met before reopening any of the above.**
D) Let them eat beds!
Legault went off on another bed tangent yesterday too, insisting that it’s not a lack of beds that they’re dealing with, but of personnel! They can’t free up more beds without more personnel! But wait, didn’t we already establish that most of those beds were outside of the city? Isn’t that why people have been carted off to Trois-Rivieres? And haven’t we also established that cancelled surgeries have made these ‘free beds’ possible? When asked how many more beds were needed and how many personnel he needed to free them up, he stammered, « oh, we know we need at least a few thousand. » Precision is for chumps.
When asked why he hadn’t visited MTL earlier, (you know before 2 months’ worth of pandemic and well over 3000 deaths in the province), he Evaded–with a capital E.
I mean, who needs a coherent priority list when one’s ass is in front and one’s head is tucked neatly inside? The CAQ still seems to be stalling on much needed pay hikes for CHSLD staff. But it’s not like defective air filtration systems fail *everyday,* infecting 100% of staff and residents in the building (like it did at CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal), right? That was an exception. Besides, there’s still not enough money for those pay hikes, or for those pesky masks everyone needs to cover their mugs, though they’re working on it. Not to worry, though, ’cause decisive action is happening where it counts the most: 45 million of public funds over the next 3 years, to promote the CAQ’s deconfinement ‘plan.’ I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am ready.
F) Masking the truth
When asked why masks were not ‘strongly recommended’ earlier, y’know before thousands of people had died, Legault shared an astounding bit about how people can’t change their habits all at once–it needs to happen a little at a time. So now that the hand washing habit has been formed, now it’s time to focus on wearing masks too. No joke. Now if that’s not stripping individuals of their sense of responsibility while at the same time setting them up to take the blame when things go to shit (which the CAQ has been doing all along by emphasizing hand washing and social distancing over safe/measurable deconfinement strategies), I don’t know what is. *Now,* he’s suddenly encouraging people to get creative and wear a scarf, buy a non medical mask, make one at home, etc. All joking and insulting aside, I think everyone should wear a mask for the next little/long while.
Of course, on a logistical level, our government is still working on making masks accessible to those that need the good ones most (including nurses, who have been complaining of being forced to wear expired & compromised masks). There’s now talk of the province donating a million masks to MTL and there is also talk of potentially maybe making them obligatory for those taking public transit—though I haven’t personally seen a single bus driver in a mask thus far. I wonder if they’ll consider making them obligatory for other essential workers too–y’know, like people working in grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, people on construction sites, and people working in prisons (ongoing hunger strike at Bordeaux prison, btw, due to pandemic-associated abuses that will make your skin crawl–and masks do not figure prominently). Today Legault followed up by saying he would not discuss making it obligatory yet–even on transit–as he would rather wait and see if people just did it of their own accord. What trust in the judgement of individuals! How consistent with not trusting people to be complex enough to wash hands AND wear a mask before. If it wasn’t for our pesky rights and freedoms, I guess we’d have no choice but to wear ’em. If only our rights and freedoms better protected us against being bullied into potentially life-threatening work, though.
G) Testing patience
Arruda yesterday assured us testing capacity is rising, though still not enough. Also, the criteria for being eligible to get a test have widened to include not only people with symptoms, but people in contact with people with symptoms. Drouin, however, has made a point of emphasizing that people who want to get tested simply because they’re returning to their jobs are not included here. It turns out, neither are the caregivers who are suddenly allowed to enter CHSLDs to see their patients (outside of MTL). And, I guess, neither are asymptomatic nurses (like the one who recently had to lie about her symptoms to get a positive result, thus narrowly avoiding spreading the virus to a whole new CHSLD).
And if testing isn’t enough to test your patience, Quebec’s new digital contact-tracing system might be. Experts are saying that the platform, designed by the Quebec company Akinox, ‘falls short of what’s considered necessary’ to contain the spread of Covid-19. While other provinces are adopting app-based contact-tracing tools using Bluetooth or GPS to figure out who someone has spent time with/around, Quebec’s model relies on email chains: people who test positive receive an email form asking them to include the email addresses of everyone they’ve been in contact with in the days before they tested positive. Those people, in turn, receive the same email. Fully reliable on people’s memory/knowledge of email addresses and the likelihood that they’ll respond at all. Useless for tracing people one passes by in a grocery store, of course, or *anyone* one doesn’t know personally.
Our government has shown itself to be greedy, dishonest, incompetent, careless, inconsistent, incoherent, and single-mindedly addicted to the notion that setting ‘fixed’ dates makes one proactive. Really though, from where I’m standing, the CAQ’s approach so far has (all but?) encouraged the spread of this virus, which means now’s the time to protect yourself and others *in spite of* government directives.