Since the declaration of the COVID-19 Pandemic back in March of 2020, the Medical Officers of Health (MOHs), the Medical Special Advisory Councils and some politicians have regularly referred to the fact that Canadians may have to learn to live with a new normal. This has been repeated so often that, like most ideas that are repeated over and over again, it has become not an idea, rather it has become a popular truth. The MOH are vague when they discuss the term, not wanting to quantify it, as with each wave there are increasing consequences, none of which are positive.
This tactic, of repeating an unpleasant change or desired concept, with mind-numbing frequency, has been used many times in the past, for many political shifts and causes. The “change’ becomes an idea, that people start to assume was really right all along, even before the campaign to make the idea began in the first place.
So, what does this term, “New Normal” really mean with respect to the MOHs and doctors daily mantra?
Much of the public has come to acknowledge, and in fact demand that:
- The MOH, unelected and not accountable to the elected officials or the public, will be in charge, whenever and for as long as they chose.
- Our public medical system will always seem to be on the brink of disaster.
- Our MOH can close any business they chose, when they want for as long as they want.
- Schools will be opened and closed on the whim of case counts or some other metric, determined by the MOH.
- The MOH will chose which illnesses are important and will ignore any and all that are not their priority.
- Our seniors will cease to be important in the public health care system.
- A Cost Benefit Analysis of actions by our MOH is an out of date concept as is the doctor’s oath to do no harm and given full informed consent before any medical action or treatment.
- Masks will be used by the public forever.
- The rule of law is suspended as are Charter Rights and Freedoms, without the Oakes test, which the courts use to determine if a violation of individual rights and freedoms is reasonable and justified, or more simply, no test of necessity at all.
So what was the old normal anyhow?
- In an emergency, fear was to be reduced and confidence in government was maintained and supported. The Government would:
- NEVER use case counts to create fear.
- NEVER use testing for any reason other than to establish a real cause of illness.
- NEVER use modelling for anything other than helping to establish surge capacity internally.
- NEVER state that a hospitalization is for Covid when a patient is admitted for another more serious reason but test positive for Covid on admittance.
- Never assign a death to Covid when other comorbidities clearly were the underlying or real cause.
- A written Pandemic Plan would be produced and issued to every member of the public. The written plan included as a minimum:
- That the disease and response were laid out with a provincial, municipal and national concept/scope of action.
- A defined Mission was stated that included everyone, not just the medical health system. For example: to ensure minimum impact of COVID-19 on <province>
- A clearly defined inclusive Governance team was established, not solely medically focused
- The response had clearly defined, predictable phases
- There were clearly defined objectives and tasks by organizations, not solely focused on medical
- Outline critical support
- There were defined and scheduled communications for
- support of citizens
- support of the public sector
- support of the private sector
- The written Plan would never be based on the arrival of a vaccine before three years. Vaccines that are fully tested, and that perform fully and safely take time.
- The government would define who was most at risk, and further define how they would be protected. In this pandemic that would include:
- A separate plan for long term care (LTC) homes
- A plan for care of those with multiple comorbidities not in LTC homes
- A plan for how the public can help and interact
- The government would explain how they would ensure the operation of critical infrastructure if staff became too ill to work:
- Explaining medical operations in context with total capacity and plans for surge capacity
- Never closing or threating to close critical services not related to the virus
- Never implying (or demanding) that healthy people be quarantined, only ill people
- Explaining that electricity, water, food, and essential supplies are being assured, and;
- Showing how the public can help
- The government would define how they will ensure the continued care for those with other life-threatening illnesses. They would guarantee that these services will not be closed or reduced.
- Knowing that fear occurs in every emergency, the Government would immediately publicly define a “Plan” for mental health issues related to the pandemic
- The government, knowing the impact of loss of education for our youth, would define a public plan for the assurance of in-class learning with appropriate safety measures and mental health aids
- The Government would routinely (daily until fear is reduced) place this virus in context
- To other diseases (Pneumonia for example)
- To other causes of death annually
- The Government would make a priority different forms of testing for COVID-19, in order to minimize the impact on ill people who may or may not have the virus
- In depth
- Cross population to determine actual Infection Fatality Rate
- The Government would produce risk analysis for population for Family Practice doctors to give advice to population on how to avoid severe outcomes from the virus
- by age
- by comorbidity
- by other health conditions (including obesity)
- The Government would define exactly how the public can send ideas and feedback to the government, to show that citizens input is both sought and valued.
- The Government would consistently show the public that they have a plan and are READY
The old normal was far better than the new normal, and we must demand it back. We must demand it back now!
David Redman had a distinguished military career before becoming the head of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency in 2004 and led the Provincial response to the devastating floods of June 2005. He also led the development of the 2005 Provincial Pandemic Influenza Plan. After retiring from EMA he continued to work as an expert in Emergency Management provincially, nationally and internationally until 2013 when he fully retired.
Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash.