Toronto is one of the last places in North America still largely closed by the pandemic.
Because saving our lives or saving our economy isn’t an ‘either-or’ thing, though we seem hard-wired to think that way. And lord knows, the loud kid to the south is screaming that it’s time to move on, as if the monster America’s just started to slay has slunk away.
This is an ‘and-and’ thing where we’re constantly balancing the health risks of opening too soon against the economic risks of closing too long.
No leader is going to get the closing-opening equation exactly right because every government is going through this for the first time. No practice means no perfection. But at least Doug Ford and his strange bedfellow, the Prime Minister, seem to understand that …it’s complicated.
Of course, neither of them is Jacinda Ardern who on Tuesday pronounced New Zealand’s response an “unacceptable failure” after two women who were allowed to travel freely turned out to have coronavirus. She then called out the army to ensure new arrivals did quarantine as they promised.
Meanwhile, did you know that in Canada, our border is actually open to tourists driving from the US? The Guardian reported yesterday that if you’re symptom-free, you can say at the border that you’re headed to Alaska, and then just not bother going there. You can stay in Banff, for example. “One resident … posted on Facebook that a Texas family had visited a restaurant, allegedly telling staff they had found a “loophole” in travel restrictions, allowing them to secretly vacation in the region. [The family is] now wandering around Banff, no masks, no distancing, no 14-day quarantine.”
But while these small failures can have big and deadly consequences, they are nothing compared to The Great Escape that’s happening this week in America, the land where polarization makes it impossible to think of The Pandemic vs. The Economy as anything but an ‘either-or’ problem.
In fact, I owe Donald Trump an apology on this issue. I wrote in April that it’s actually possible the President was withholding Federal assistance to certain states because they were Democratic, and the lack of that aid would lead to more Democrats dying in those states, and therefore fewer Democratic voters at the polls. The ultimate voter suppression strategy.
After writing that, I immediately left my desk and washed my hands.
But I was wrong, and some would say dead wrong.
What’s actually happening is that the pandemic is on the rise in Republican states.
On Tuesday, Florida, Texas and Arizona all set records for the most new cases in a day, after recording all-time highs last week.
This weekend, 19,000 Republicans will gather in Tulsa, Oklahoma for Donald Trump’s first live rally since February. That state has been relatively untouched by the pandemic, though on Wednesday, it reported 259 new cases, “a single-day record for the second day in a row.”
If you think of this as 19,000 tourists breaking quarantine in New Zealand, or 19,000 tourists wandering the streets of Banff unmasked, you would be minimizing just what carnage Trump’s rally will create in the months to come.
It goes without saying that the rally is being held in defiance of his own administration’s guidelines on ‘phased re-opening.’
So it’s hard not to conclude that tens of thousands of Americans will die needlessly and the economy will not recover.
My point here is not that the US President is craven and self-destructive, that he’s wilfully misconducting the affairs of state, or that he cares about nothing other than being re-elected.
My point is that he seems determined to kill the very people who voted him into office four years ago.