The COVID-19 year

This past year will definitely be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in recent memory.

The year was dominated by the global novel coronavirus pandemic, the scope of which was known early in 2020, and as of press time, still looms large.

When the provincial government announced last March that Nova Scotia was in a state of emergency, ¬¬ when public events were cancelled, businesses had to shutter, and schools were closed, no one knew what was going to happen.

By the time of April’s mass shooting in the central part of the province, which claimed the life of former Antigonish County resident Cst. Heidi Stevenson, Nova Scotia recorded its highest total of daily new cases, and things seemed very grim.

During this trying time, people, groups and businesses around the Strait area stepped up for their families, their neighbours, their friends, and those they didn’t know. The spirit of cooperation and generosity was a sight to behold, and provided the most heart-warming memories of 2020.

To see the support and appreciation given to frontline health care workers, and see how these professionals went about their jobs gave courage to so many.

To see that many people go that far above and beyond for so many was inspiring. It gave hope to those struggling, it inspired others to do the same, and it showed that even in the most difficult circumstances, there is good in the world.

And it was needed. By the time the spring started then progressed, businesses, operations and employers were hurting; some closed permanently, some toughed it out, some opened gradually, and others hustled to adhere to strict public health guidelines so they could hang their shingle as quickly as possible.

Non-profits and community groups took stock of the damage inflicted by months of inactivity, and governments began and continue to calculate the economic and social damage from three months of an almost complete shutdown.

Then there was the psychological effects on people forced to remain in their own rooms, their own apartments, and their own properties for so many weeks, as well as the problems families faced as students remained home and parents/guardians were required to facilitate online learning, with teachers on the other end trying to deal with an impossible situation.

This is certainly not to forget or sideline the millions world-wide who succumbed to the deadly virus, and the millions more left with permanent and serious damage to their bodies.

While some might argue that the cure of shutdown was worse than the virus, the fact that Nova Scotia, even more specifically the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Eastern Zone, is known as one of the safest jurisdictions in North America, speaks for itself. This province and this region strictly followed public health protocols, and in final analysis, everyone is better for it.

Had provincial officials not been as strict enacting restrictions, and not as aggressive in enforcing their decisions, where would Nova Scotia be today and what shape would the economy be in right now?

Given the province’s large population of senior citizens and those with pre-existing conditions, it’s conceivable that COVID-19 would have devastated Nova Scotia.

Even while exercising prudence, government didn’t react the same way in the second wave. Recognizing the effects of a complete shutdown, public health officials concentrated efforts on areas with community spread and the vast majority of the cases; a wise strategy that allowed other regions to breath, while limiting the spread of this plague.

And now that vaccines have been found, now that governments are making plans to start inoculating Canadians in the new year, and there is hope on the horizon, those dark, hopeless days of March and April, thankfully seem further away.

The province received 1,950 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine last week.

Health care workers will be immunized first, including those working in COVID-19 care units, Regional Care Units and intensive care units that care for COVID-19 patients.

During the first three months of 2021, the province’s aim is to first immunize long-term care residents and staff. Then seniors, beginning with those over 80 years of age, followed by those over 75 and then people over 70. The next group is health care workers directly involved in patient care.

The province said their focus this month is the Central Zone, as the Pfizer vaccine cannot be moved around the province since must be stored at minus 70 Celsius.

Doses of the Moderna vaccine are also expected to begin arriving this month, and that vaccine must be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius.

The province said it expects to receive a total of 150,000 doses in “small, weekly supplies” into the first three months of 2021. The vaccine is administered in two doses.

Despite the vaccines, the world is still far from out of the woods. It is expected that it will take until the summer before a sizable portion of the population is vaccinated.

In that time, vigilance is required; continue wearing masks, maintain at least two metres of distance, and keep sanitizing. It’s not like we haven’t had months of practice to keep doing so.

That will also mean that until access is provided to the vaccine, large crowds will still be limited, as will non-essential travel, and those with pre-existing conditions will have to remain careful.

The world is not out of the woods, and it will be well into the new year before the exit can even be identified, but there are genuine reasons to believe 2021 will be better.