The greatest threat to our continued existence as a species is not a virus; it is the loss of our humanity.
Last week, the story broke that an MLA and his teenager tested positive for COVID-19. In the spirit of transparency, he self-identified. He didn’t have to. We also learned that he had left his self-isolation period one day early to go to work. Unfortunately, his teenage daughter who was also self-isolating participated in social gatherings that evening. Now a whole lot of people are being monitored for signs of COVID-19.
He had received one shot of the vaccine in late March before traveling to Alberta. Sadly, that did not protect them from contracting the virus which should be more of a concern to people then the fact that he went out on day 13. Apparently, no one is sure how long this virus can survive in our system but there is little doubt that he could have infected people just as easily the next day. That doesn’t justify the choice but it does say that the results would likely not have been significantly different.
No one focused on that nor the fact that he had received one dose and still contracted the virus or that he and his daughter were sick. The focal point was that he left one day early.
In the onslaught of the sometimes-vicious comments that followed on some social media posts last week, it quickly became clear that people had forgotten this was not the first time people had broken the rules. The stage was set months before when another MLA, a female cabinet minister, allegedly socialized with others out of her bubble in Inuvik.
Other than a few media stories, the situation was swept quickly under the rug. Far worse, were the three senior civil servants who vacationed over Christmas despite persistent messaging from the chief public health officer and the Legislative Assembly to the rest of us to stay put.
One of those who traveled was the newly-appointed head of the COVID-19 secretariat, who went to B.C. with his wife to spend Christmas with their three university-aged children. How nice. Part of his responsibility in this new role was to oversee the regulations everyone else was being asked to follow. Everyone else, that is, except senior government personnel.
Prior to the Christmas break, Caroline Cochrane had pleaded with residents to stay home, tell their university kids to shelter in place and abandon their much-needed visits with loved family members that they had not seen since spring. Thank goodness, the majority did the right thing.
The outpouring of anger when people learned about the Christmas trips was palpable. While the premier said residents’ frustration was “understandable” she urged patience. Patience?
In other provinces, elected and non-elected officials who traveled and broke rules and regulations either resigned or were voluntold to. But not in the NWT. Other than some red faces and aw-shucks moments – there were no consequences and the Christmas Grinch disappeared. It was a clear case of civil servant privilege.
Some of the social media comments last week also called for consequences and Cochrane hinted that this might happen. Unlike the previous people who flaunted the regulations, though, it is well known that this MLA has been a bit of a thorn in the side of some cabinet ministers so they might consider that consequences would be helpful in this case.
The appropriate outcome though would be for the NWT government to pick up the cost of any parents or workers who will lose pay cheques during their isolation periods if they have to do that. After all, the casual way the breaches were handled at Christmas sent out the message that it is okay to break the rules. That horse was let out of the barn a long time ago – we’re just dealing with karmic repercussions.
It was his decision to break his isolation period one day early and he will have to choose his next steps wisely. But I think everyone needs to remember that permission slips for lax behaviour were handed out in January. Maybe none of this would have happened if tougher action was taken then, when we should have been setting one firm tone for all.
Finally, let’s remember that people are ill with COVID-19 right now. One of them is a teenager. How about instead of getting nasty, we work hard to contain the virus and send those infected our best wishes for speedy recoveries. That is our own better nature at work and what we too would appreciate if we were in their shoes.