No time to be led into temptation

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A passing glance at some COVID-19 numbers could easily lead one into temptation.

By some statistical indicators, the tri-county area is looking like a patient who has just got out of bed for the first time in three months and wants to go home.

Which would be a fine situation for any medical condition that doesn’t include the likelihood of a second wave.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s most recent numbers show us on a continued winning streak of days without a new lab-confirmed case – closing in on a month without a new community-based case. Long-term care outbreaks, once the scourge of Lanark County, have been reduced to only one. And the health unit numbers show that 99 per cent of local cases (minus the 52 cases that tragically resulted in death) have now recovered.

Most significantly, the map of the health unit’s coverage area shows zero active community cases.

It’s enough to make you want to forget to wash your hands when you come in from a shopping excursion, or question the necessity of soaking your bananas in soapy water.


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But then one reads passages like the following, included in city manager Janette Loveys’s report to council on Brockville’s reopening plan:

“With moving into Stage Two of the pandemic recovery, it is now more important to highlight the need for the public to adhere to all the public health directives. This shift is about public trust and respect in how we, as a community, act and follow the rules. It is incumbent on everyone to play a role and keep Brockville safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Especially considering a second pandemic wave, the potential of the virus mutating, the lack of a vaccination and wider community spread with travellers from outside of the community coming to Brockville.”

In other words: Keep washing those bloody bananas. The social contract depends on it.

It’s been tempting, these past two weeks, to think of Stage Two, with its open patios and available haircuts, as a reward for having done our bit with the physical distancing, the hand-washing, the attention to coloured tape on the floor of our box stores and all the other regimentation required to keep COVID-19 at bay.

But in truth, it’s more like a test. Yes, that zero active case count gives us the ability to do more things, but the lack of a vaccine, the potential for spreaders from other communities, the possibility of the virus mutating and the near-certainty of a second wave mean we can’t yet go back to 2019 social interaction.

Whether we pass or fail that test will depend on where case counts go from here – and what happens when that mutation, or that second wave, pays us a visit.


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If we “act and follow the rules,” there’s a greater likelihood we’ll be better equipped to face those challenges when they hit. Not giving in to temptation now will equip us with the right behaviours to counter COVID’s next move.

That will mean avoiding the temptation to jump ahead to Stage Three behaviour while we are still in Stage Two.

Some of this will be more than frustrating. And some restrictions will remain in place even if, by all accounts, they don’t need to be according to the COVID count.

As I mentioned recently, city hall will keep some closures in place, not necessarily because they limit the spread of COVID-19, but rather because they limit the growth of the budget deficit, and therefore next year’s tax increase.

The recovery plan, which council was to discuss Tuesday in a meeting that has been postponed to, likely, sometime next week, has arrived at the stage where council and staff discuss “city-owned facilities and services which require a modified service level to reopen.”

And modified service levels require modified (read, increased) spending. For example, while it may be a relief to see washrooms open at Blockhouse Island, Centeen and St. Lawrence Parks and the Rotary Park splash pad, the cost of these measures is approximately $103,000.

Financial pressures, for the moment, are acting as a check on the temptation to let our guard down. We will likely be grateful for them later, and not only when the tax bill comes due.

City hall reporter Ronald Zajac can be reached at