COLUMN: From the Hill -- COVID-19
I am writing this from my small Ottawa apartment. It’s Sunday and the spring sun is shining, beckoning me to walk down to the river. But I’ll obey my doctor’s orders and stay inside—although I received the good news yesterday that my COVID-19 test results came back negative, I was told to stay in self-isolation one more day.
On March 1st I attended a large mining conference in Toronto, along with more than 25,000 other people from around the world.
I flew home after that meeting, met with folks across the riding for the following week, then returned to Ottawa. Last Tuesday I came down with a mild fever and fiery sore throat. I didn’t think much of it until the following morning when I heard that one of the Canadians attending the mining conference had tested positive for COVID-19, and some of my colleagues had gone into self-isolation. Because of my symptoms and close association with possible carriers, I was tested for the virus last Wednesday and went into self-isolation myself.
While being cooped up in a small apartment quickly becomes tiresome, I’m one of the fortunate ones. If I stay home from work, I still get paid. Thousands of people across the country are being told to stay home if they have symptoms but face losing their paychecks as a result. Thousands of others have been laid off as arenas, auditoriums, libraries, and museums are closed. Parents are forced to stay home as schools and day cares are closed. And when people stay home, the tourism and restaurant sectors face significant financial difficulties.
The government is promising an aid package in response to COVID-19. I am waiting to hear details on this initiative, but I’ll push to ensure that self-employed workers and part-time workers without benefits don’t fall through the cracks. I’ll push to ensure that remote indigenous communities, where self-isolation at home often means living in cramped quarters with extended families, and where access to testing and even basic health care is often impossible, are not forgotten. And I’ll push to ensure that the tourism sector has access to supports as it will suffer significant losses in the coming weeks and months.
These are extraordinary times. We all have to do our part to slow the spread of this virus. I can personally attest that the novelty of staying home quickly wears off, so get outside and enjoy the spring weather if you can. It’s easy to keep your social distance in our beautiful outdoors.
Our medical system is working well in Canada. Testing protocols and availability are ensuring that those with the virus are isolated and cared for . While the cancellations of sports events and concerts may seem like overkill, they are the right response, and hopefully we can say in a few weeks or months that, while we all had to sacrifice some of life’s pleasures, our health care system was not overwhelmed and all those that needed life-saving care received it.
In line with other constituency services across the country, my riding offices will continue their important work to help constituents, but for the time being will not be open to the public. Please phone 250-770-4480 or email Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org for help with any federal issue.
I’d like to thank all those front-line health workers who are striving to keep this virus at bay, including the one who phoned me at 9:30 pm on Saturday to let me know my test results were negative!
To paraphrase a doctor I heard, here is some good advice to get through this pandemic: Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Open your heart.