Like many of us, this whole pandemic situation has forced me to do some careful thinking about how I approach raising my children to be more mindful of their health. In some important ways, the pandemic has brought some positive changes to how our society views “health etiquette” and how we conduct ourselves in public places. For example, I believe that as a society we are much more aware of how going out and about in our community, whether for work or for errands, while we are actively ill is inconsiderate as it helps to spread germs more readily to other members of our community. Time to re-think our habit of toughing it out and showing up anyways. Moreover, more attention has been drawn to proper hand hygiene and covering your sneeze or cough, as well as keeping more distance from others in cold and flu season in particular. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Nevertheless, I have struggled with the shutdown and restart policies throughout most of this pandemic. Most of my frustration has stemmed from having to explain to my children the reasons given for the economic shutdown we experienced, then having to answer some pretty tough questions they had about the changes in our society if indeed it is now safe to return to school and other activities. It required some careful reflection on my part, not just knee-jerk reactions, and I thought I would share my experience in case any other families are dealing with similar issues today.

Let me back-up a bit, to give you some context. Years ago, when my son was two years old, we came very close to losing him to an aggressive virus. He had a few sniffles and sneezes just before bed one night, no fever, and he went to sleep pretty quickly. Six hours later, he had a raging fever and was beginning to wheeze when he breathed. Within 20 hours of the first mild symptoms, I watched my son fighting for every breath as the air ambulance landed in Vancouver and we were whisked away to Sick Kids hospital. Not once in the week my son spent in isolation in the hospital did anyone try to name this virus that ravaged my boy’s lungs.

Not once did they tell us to isolate our child for his protection upon our return to Merritt. Not once did they ask anyone to wear a mask in his presence, not even at his worst in the hospital. Not once did they advise me to be afraid, only to be prepared and to know what signs to look for. My son taught me to set aside my “mommy-worries” and let him live a normal life.

Fast-forward to the present, nine years later, when it is announced there is a new virus that is causing a pandemic around the world. Initially, because it seemed we didn’t know very much about COVID-SARS2, I felt hurled back to that frightening day when my son was so sick as a very young child. I admit I was worried about keeping my son from getting this virus and dutifully followed all the restrictions and believed what the news programs and government spokespeople were saying, by the end of the first week of shutdown. But, by mid-April, I began to seriously doubt this economic shutdown was necessary. Why on earth couldn’t they advise the more medically fragile or susceptible to take appropriate precautions, while the rest of us carried on with running things? According to the BCCDC, for the time period between January and September 2020, the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID19 in British Columbia involves 0.002% of the 5.1 million people living in this province. Even if you ballparked it to ten times that number as some kind of estimate to include people that had it, but didn’t get tested, you still don’t have even half a percent of the BC population affected by COVID19.

My son has bombarded me with questions, but two questions stand out most for me. Question one: Will the virus be gone forever when this is over? My answer: No, it has now been released into the world and will likely keep coming back every year, in one form or another, like any other virus out there. His comment then was that “the world is pretty stupid to believe they can hide from this virus if it’s here forever.” The lesson that smacked me right in the face there was that a person should not be afraid to apply logic and common sense, even though most around you don’t see the same thing.

As the pandemic dragged on throughout the summer, question two surfaces: why do they want healthy people to wear masks to shop or go to school? I answered him honestly that I wasn’t certain. The Provincial Health Office of BC is in charge of monitoring the health of all British Columbians and their chief is a licensed, certified medical doctor. Not once throughout this entire pandemic has Dr. Bonnie Henry said it is *mandatory* to wear a mask if you cannot physically distance. Documents from her office have varied in the wording over time. She is a doctor and does not feel it is a necessary measure. Why then do employers, unions, corporations, and big retailers feel they have the right to override our own highly qualified chief medical officer? I feel like it bears re-stating since it always seems to be a lost footnote anymore: according to the BCCDC, non-medical masks help stop the spread of droplets from YOUR OWN mouth and nose, they do not protect you from other people’s infected droplets sent in your direction. So, it makes no sense to ask healthy people to wear a mask regularly throughout the day. We are continually asked to respect people that wear a mask, and I do, but the same courtesy should be offered to those of us who choose not to wear one. I whole-heartedly disagree with non-medically qualified entities forcing a healthy person to wear a mask to shop or go to work/school. The lesson my son taught me here is to remind me of the value of standing up for your principles. In fact, where is the government leadership here? They have permitted corporations and unions to try to enact mask-wearing policies that are contrary to the advice of its provincial health office. Time to remind candidates in the upcoming provincial election that they are supposed to be working for us, not bowing down to big business and unions that throw money their way during their campaigns.

They say kids keep you grounded and I feel like that’s been particularly true for me during all this COVID pandemic nonsense. My family figured out early on in this process there was no good reason for the fear – the data for BC proves that. Time to get on with life, British Columbia! We got this!

Marie Stewart