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Now is the summer of our discontent

Maclean Kay looks ahead to what might be a challenging few weeks and months. (With help from William Shakespeare’s Richard III, because why not.)

I have a feeling we’re headed for a rough patch.

Yes, we’re making headway on vaccination. Yes, infection rates and (more importantly) hospitalization numbers are trending back down. Yes, things could easily be much, much worse – just ask Alberta.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

Talk’st thou to me of ‘ifs’?

Forget blame, criticizing provincial or federal public health officials, or playing what-if. Because it’s absolutely important to keep in mind things could be much worse. In a not-very-different alternate universe, BC could be coping with case counts like Ontario, or even India.

So in many ways, we’re still quite fortunate. But there’s no escaping the fact that the United States has reached the point where vaccines are now offered to Walmart walk-ins.

It’s not just about the vaccines.

On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry strongly suggested that, despite the very real progress made towards mass vaccination, this summer will not see large public events in BC. No concerts, no Canada Day fireworks, no Lions games, no fun.

Another lost summer. Before you tweet or DM me, let’s not Pollyanna this.

An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.

We’ve heard these before.

“It’s just a few more weeks.” (The last “just a few weeks” was in November. Still going.)

“You can have just as much fun in your backyard.” (I don’t have a backyard.)

“You can stay connected on Zoom!” (Doesn’t even merit a response.)

“Your grandparents fought the Nazis, you can sit at home.” (Sure, I guess? A total war effort must’ve been especially hard, watching normal life carry on in the United States for more than two years until Pearl Harbour.)

This was easier to swallow last year. It was still new, necessary to forestall the abject horror visited on places like Northern Italy then, or India today. And crucially, we weren’t alone.

Over the next few months, we’ll be on the outside, looking in. Joyous crowds are flooding the streets of London after lockdown was lifted, sometimes spontaneously erupting into song.

Good for them. No, really. For many Canadians, lagging behind Europe is one thing. But the United States?

South of the border, things like concerts, sports events, and theme parks are already returning, and will continue to ramp back up to full capacity. And as most Canadians consume Texas-sized amounts of US media, the comparison will sting.

Some brave souls will point to these events as aspirational targets. And if you can experience good mental health vicariously, I envy you. But others, and I count myself here, will just see it as yet more time they’ll never get back.

Again – and I can’t make this clear enough –  this is NOT an argument to lift restrictions prematurely. Only that watching others get back to normal will make it harder to swallow, we can’t pretend that doesn’t mean even more frustration and frayed nerves.

The king’s name is a tower of strength.

Having to wait was more tolerable when it was underpinned with broad public faith in public health officials. But while our American cousins are vaccine shopping (or watching zoo animals get vaccinated) Canada is suffering a spasm of confusion.

We’ve been reassured for months that (say it with me now) the best shot is the first one offered. But this week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization threw a wrench in the works, saying that’s not exactly true. Pfizer and Moderna were “preferred”, and it’s best to wait for the good shit. And that’s on top of local confusion over registration, pharmacy waiting lists, and more.

It’s still several orders of magnitude better to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca than not at all. But we’re talking emotion and self-interest, not science. When you’re handing out lifejackets, people wonder why they didn’t get the deluxe model.

Aside from making those with AstraZeneca feel like they’ve been sent into battle with a stick, vaccine hesitancy was already a problem. Not a weekend goes by without an anti-mask, anti-vaccine rally downtown (any downtown). People like Dr. Henry invested months, painstakingly building trust and goodwill that all miracle vaccines were equally good, full stop.

All undermined in an afternoon.

This weak piping time of peace.

They aren’t the only ones ramping up protests.

Extinction Rebellion has already begun what they call a “spring rebellion,” blocking major thoroughfares, on the theory that only by annoying people can you convince them you’re right.

This began in April, mere days after the province kiboshed non-essential travel between health regions, with a protest march from Vancouver to Victoria – a declaration that either protest is essential, or that travel restrictions don’t apply.

However you feel about climate change or Extinction Rebellion, British Columbians may be facing a stretch where they’re not allowed to gather or travel – but are expected to endure blockades and delays at home.

To me, it feels like a recipe for frustration. Perhaps I’m not being optimistic enough, but as Richard III says, I am not in the giving vein to-day.

Maclean Kay is Editor-in-Chief of The Orca


  • Maclean Kay last wrote about a very Usual Budget Day.
  • You know what would help? Being allowed to have a beer on the beach or park with long-missed friends. Jody Vance says it's time to just let it happen.
  • Ada Slivinski: In order to bend the infection rate down, people are asked to stay alone, and isolate. But to avoid one danger, they risk walking right into another.