This weekend, it dawned upon me that I'm part of an informal club.
It's not very large, unfortunately. And it includes a minuscule number of journalists and elected officials.
They're far outnumbered in this club by doctors, other healthcare workers, teachers, parents of young children, people with disabilities, and intellectuals.
The club doesn't have a name. A little while ago, Victoria journalist Rob Shaw referred to us as the "fringe". I prefer the names "COVID Conscious" or "COVID Aware" or "COVID Sensible".
With any one of these names, we could label those who don't belong to the club as COVID Unconscious or COVID Unaware or COVID Senseless.
Right now, I would put all but two MLAs in the B.C. legislature in the COVID Unaware camp.
The exceptions are B.C. Green MLAs Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen, whom I would characterize as COVID Aware.
For the most part, the COVID Aware share similar beliefs, which are rooted in papers published in reputable scientific journals.
A very long time ago, Moses received the 10 Commandments, which offered guidance to his people on how to live ethically and responsibly.
In that spirit, I've listed 10 Proclamations below from the COVID Aware. These are intended to offer guidance to politicians, media, and labour leaders who want to prevent unnecessary deaths and disability as a result of this disease.
10 Proclamations from the COVID Aware
1. COVID-19 is not only a respiratory illness. It's a vascular disease that presents initially as a respiratory problem or with no symptoms. In some cases, it triggers immune responses that can lead to a range of serious problems, including brain injury, heart attacks, strokes, organ damage, and onset of diabetes. COVID-19 also damages blood vessels in children, even if they are asymptomatic.
2. The most common way COVID-19 is transmitted is through tiny airborne particles carrying the virus, which hang in indoor air for minutes or even hours after an infected person has been present.
3. People are getting reinfected with COVID-19, which means that achieving herd immunity is impossible.
4. The B.C. government has adopted a mass-infection policy. This became clear with the lifting of a provincewide mask mandate, which we believe will lead to unnecessary deaths and disability. The mass-infection policy is being bolstered by not testing for COVID-19 in a meaningful way, putting COVID-19 patients alongside uninfected people in hospitals, and not reporting COVID-19 deaths and intensive-care unit cases in real time (i.e. every day).
5. A B.C. government mass-infection policy will undermine the economy as more workers and managers call in sick, go off work on disability, or die, due in part to the shockingly high prevalence of Long COVID.
6. A B.C. government mass-infection policy will inflict long-term damage on the health-care system as workers burn out and people will be forced to wait much longer for other treatments and procedures.
7. A B.C. government mass-infection policy is particularly dangerous for young children who have far lower rates of vaccination than the general public. We believe that it's especially asinine to remove a mask mandate in elementary schools, given the effect that Long COVID can have on people's mental capacities. We're exasperated by the COVID Unaware's opposition to HEPA filters and Corsi-Rosenthal boxes in classrooms.
8. We agree with B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender that the lifting of a provincewide mask mandate discriminates against families with immunocompromised members, seniors, and marginalized members of society. We're appalled that the COVID Unaware—including senior public-health officials, the health minister, the premier, and the entire caucuses of the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberal party—don't appear to be troubled by this discriminatory action.
9. In the midst of policies that will inevitably lead to more death and disability in our province, we're shocked and appalled by the silence of leaders in the labour movement. We're also disgusted by how casually this is being treated by news directors and editors of large media outlets, who have the power to wake the public up to the magnitude of the problem.
10. We want the B.C. government to appoint a provincial health officer who will speak up for the immunocompromised, including transplant recipients, whose lives have been made a living hell by provincial policies around COVID-19.
Trust is a two-way street
We also believe that trust in the B.C. government is essential if we're going to prevent future waves of COVID-19. But trust is a two-way street.
We have to trust that our B.C. government is truly following the science. We've seen little evidence of that in a multitude of areas, including how the virus is being transmitted and even the very nature of what COVID-19 is—a vascular disease and not simply a respiratory illness.
We can only truly trust the B.C. government when it explicitly, repeatedly, and publicly acknowledges that the most common way COVID-19 is transmitted is through tiny airborne particles hanging in indoor air for minutes or hours after an infectious person has been there.
This has not occurred even though we're into the third year of the pandemic.
We can also only trust the B.C. government when it gets real about Long COVID.
Only when these things happen will we believe that those who have the power to save a large number of lives are COVID Aware.
We were thrilled when the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Alondra Nelson, joined our club last month when she issued a statement entitled "Let's Clear The Air On COVID".
Two weeks later, the White House issued a memorandum on addressing the long-term effects of COVID-19.
"More than 200,000 children in the United States have lost a parent or caregiver to the disease," President Joe Biden said. "Each soul is irreplaceable, and the families and communities left behind are still reeling from profound loss."
We're also reeling from profound loss here in B.C. But we're also furious that so little is being done by the COVID Unaware to prevent more of these tragic losses in the future.