The best thing about the end of the pandemic will be, obviously, the end of the pandemic. A return to some kind of normal life, with family and friends and movies and restaurants and concerts and sports.
The second-best thing is going to be the end of the COVID-19 pundit roller coaster.
Someone should go back and catalogue all the highs and lows of the pandemic. Not the ones that we actually experienced – the three waves of infection, the summer lull, the arrival of vaccines, and so on – but the reflections of those events in the minds of columnists and pundits and talking heads on political panels.
They saw a very different pandemic than the one that actually unfolded.
I remember one columnist at a major national publication who wrote a lengthy piece excoriating the entire pandemic response back in mid-March. He spent most of his bile on the federal government’s vaccine procurement, but went off on a mini-tirade about the provinces, claiming they had totally failed at vaccine distribution.
This was baffling. There are multiple outlets, including non-profits, that are tracking COVID deliveries and dispersal. At the time of the column, almost every province was pumping what vaccines they had into arms as fast as they could. Saskatchewan had given more doses than they had received, pulling six doses out of vials rated for five whenever possible.
But having functional vaccine distribution, while we were in the middle of a vaccine shortage, didn’t fit with the narrative of incompetence, I guess?
Pundits need two things. They need for things to be going very well, or very badly. And they need to be able to point to someone who’s responsible for the things that are going well or badly.
That’s incredibly difficult with COVID-19.
Who is to blame for Canada not having any vaccine manufacturing centres, for example? Trudeau? Harper? Maybe Chretien? Maybe just impersonal market forces and globalized trade?
How about the varying lockdown measures implemented province to province? Was B.C.’s approach too soft? Did we not lock down soon enough as the second and third waves approached? Are we now too cautious as numbers drop, or do we still need to keep our guard up? How much role did luck play, both good and bad?
I really don’t know. I’m hopeful. Things look pretty good right now. That’s about all I can say.
To accurately determine exactly why we had the pandemic we did, you would need the combined skills of a doctor, an epidemiologist, an economist, a political scientist, and a fortune teller. If you find someone with all of those qualifications, let me know.
A full autopsy of Canada’s COVID response will reveal some tragic mistakes and some brilliant decisions – some likely made by the exact same people. There hasn’t been a pandemic like this in a century, and we were all fumbling in the dark.
There’s no one story of the pandemic, no one hero or villain to point to, just lessons, that we need to learn for the future.