Opinion | Not all Torontons see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel

Congratulations Toronto! Thanks to 77 percent of us and counting those of us who are fully vaccinated, the city center does not have tumbleweeds in its center.

Instead, this September, you have blaring car horns, Frosh students, exhausted travelers (and in the distance, for the first time in more than a year, the hum of a Porter plane).

You know your city has been through a lot when you celebrate the return of things you once complained about.

In fact, urban traffic congestion has returned with such force that on Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory presented an official “action plan” to manage it, which includes: essential during the first two weeks of September “and” actively monitoring traffic cameras in the city, especially at critical points of congestion to provide real-time problem solving. ”

But the pedestrian congestion is also back: the good one. After the recent rude anti-vaccine rallies in the city, it was nice to see the science-embracing youth, also known as University of Texas engineering students, wandering down Yonge Street in their signature helmets this week. . The school is no longer exclusively a massive Zoom tile. Neither does the City Council.

“It has been wonderful to welcome residents to these buildings,” Mayor John Tory said at a news conference Wednesday, alluding to the recent return of many city employees to city buildings, from those who take care of tax and utility matters to those who issue marriage licenses. The city, Tory says, is “laser focused” on achieving a 90 percent total vaccination rate. “We are closer to the end of the pandemic than to the beginning,” he said.

But despite the positive developments cited above, this is not true for everyone, at least it does not feel true. Yes, the city is coming to life. Yes, people are slowly returning to office towers, conference rooms, and subway cars.

However, none of this changes the fact that while one group of Toronto residents is entering a period of reduced anxiety about the virus, another group is stuck where they started, paralyzed with worry.

The term “divided society” is used these days in reference to the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated. But lately the term makes me think of a different division: the division between those with children under the age of 12 and those without.

And those of us who have children under the age of 12, also known as unvaccinated children, do not feel that we are nearing the end of a dark chapter. We feel that we are at the beginning of a new one.

Our children are not vaccinated and therefore unprotected from COVID-19, yet they are entering Ontario schools and daycare centers this week amid a fourth wave powered by Delta, often in classes whose numbers are not small enough, where distancing seems practically impossible and scientific. modeling is bleak. Serious illness from COVID-19 is rare in children, but the news that pediatric wards are crowded in US hospitals doesn’t exactly ease parents’ anxiety on that front. Nor are the infinitely confusing statements of public health officials.

Consider this one from Toronto’s top doctor, Eileen de Villa, a person I deeply respect and whose work I don’t envy, but who can be infuriatingly vague at times. On Wednesday Villa said the following:

“However, the Delta variant has not spoiled everything, and it will not, if we act to give it less room to maneuver. That happens through vaccination and through the selection and choice of what we do and when, how and where we do it. The simplest criteria for reducing contact is this: ask yourself if it’s something you need to do or something you want to do. What limits or simple adjustments can you make to your plans to reduce the number of people you interact with? “

Unfortunately, these rhetorical questions make no sense to parents of unvaccinated children in daycare and school who have no control over the “limits and settings” of the environments in which their children walk every day.

But De Villa’s questions are also meaningless because the state itself contradicts her at all times. If a city’s strip clubs and malls are open, does it really make sense for its public health figures to ask people to prioritize needs over wants? If the “wishes” are open, people will indulge them. It helps that at the end of the month, most people who fulfill their wishes, that is, who enjoy non-essential activities, will have to present a certificate of vaccination. That is certainly a relief.

But until the vaccine for children under 12 is approved, there will be no relief for parents of children not vaccinated at school. There will be no relief for parents with unvaccinated young children in daycare. And there is nothing we can do about it except worry and wait. Toronto may be losing some of its COVID-19 anxiety. Torontons who care for young children are not.


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