TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK?

That shouldn’t even be a question. Earlier this month, in response to the rapid spread of a deadly global pandemic, the Region of Peel made a decision based on medical and scientific advice. The wearing of non-medical masks in indoor enclosed spaces and outdoor spaces where social distancing was not possible became mandatory on July 10, 2020.

This emergency by-law was passed by the Councils of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga for as long as our medical Officers of Health deem necessary. This temporary mandatory masks by-law is much like the permanent seat belt, no hands-held phone texting or talking, no smoking/vaping in shared enclosed spaces by laws. They are intended to protect ourselves and others from injury, illness and possible death. This is not like the “No Shirt, No Shoes No Service” signs that pop up in store windows during the long hot Ontario summers.

If, for example, our Premier happened to walk into the local corner store with no shirt and no shoes, that would be offensive and not aesthetically pleasing to the general public, and very disturbing for young children. But if our Premier walked into that same store maskless during a coronavirus pandemic, he could potentially be infecting the staff and other customers.

Here’s another example. Consider that not following the mandatory mask by-law in the Region of Peel, or anywhere else where the virus is active, is like driving drunk without a seat belt while texting on your hand-held cellphone as you speed through a red light. Someone could die.

Testing for COVID-19 lets you know if you are positive or negative with the virus. The tests are NOT 100% accurate and persons with the virus may be asymptomatic, not showing any outward signs of carrying the disease. Wearing a mask and social distancing is the easiest way to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. We have the by-law so all we need now are educated and respectful citizens to follow it.

However, as expected in any democratic society, while there are no differences in the facts, there are differences of opinion. South of the border, they have coined the term “Donnie and the Boogaloos” for groups of people resistant to medical and scientific health measures. Here in Caledon I have named them “Ronnie and the BooBoos” being any group of people who brag about never buying or ever wearing a mask. We can find them lined up at hardware stores and coffee shops all around the Town.

Unfortunately, given that we have so few by-law officers, there is little enforcement of this by-law and store owners are left with the responsibility of educating their customers. As one community minded business man told me recently, “Skid, we’ve posted the signage at our entrance. These resistors are belligerent. I can’t afford a confrontation with a customer who refuses to comply.” And I can’t put my family at risk by entering a premises where there is not full compliance.

One of our local Councillors told me recently that he had received many more calls complaining about the mandatory mask by-law than the few he got about the traffic calming (excellent work by the way) at the four corners intersection in Bolton. Another Councillor wrote to me: “There are many residents who are in support of this issue but there are others who are not.”

This is not an “issue” and in my humble opinion, based on medical and scientific reports, there are not “fine people on both sides” of this mandatory by-law. To mask or not to mask shouldn’t even be a question our citizens our asking. Comply with the By-Law. Don’t be one of the “BooBoos” – wear a mask!

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RETWEET ON TWITTER #WearAMask #COVIDIOTS

Earth Day 2020, from a window

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, “This is the way Earth recovers, not with a bang, but a whimper.”

When Eliot wrote The Wasteland in 1922, he probably didn’t have a future global coronavirus pandemic in mind. More like the wasteland created by the horrors of World War One and the “Spanish Flu” as it was called then. This virulent H1N1 swine flu virus actually spread from Austria and France to Spain in 1918 and then was carried home by returning WW1 soldiers. By 1922 it had indeed produced a wasteland, infecting over one third of the world’s human population and resulting in at least 50 million deaths.

Today, the world’s pre-pandemic human population sits at over 8 billion very consumptive, fossil fuel based creatures. COVID-19 has put the brakes on that consumption. It is very fitting therefore, that Earth Day 2020 be celebrated quietly, with no human crowds gathering in the streets or parks or schoolyards for the usual symbolic one-day reprieve of our relentless assault on Earth’s systems.

Since 1970, throngs of well-wishing people have gathered around the globe for one day of green Kumbaya singsongs and tree plantings, and the very next day go right back to consuming as if we had six planet Earths in reserve. Not this year. This year, Earth gets a reprieve. An Earth day with no humans trampling down the delicate spring rebirth. This year a real Earth Day.

For us watching from the windows, there is quiet. Fewer cars in the streets, fewer trucks on the roads, less polluted air to breathe. Far away in Italy, overcome with pandemic deaths on the one hand, the canals of Venice are running clean for the first time in decades. As millions of birds begin their spring migration back to honeymoon haven in the north, fewer Fatal Light Attraction deaths are being reported as office towers sit black at night. (It’s NOT the windmills Mr. Ford.)

This Earth Day is different. We sit inside and have family meals, play board games, tell tall tales. If we venture quietly outside it may be to marvel at the new spring flowers slowly appearing. or to listen to the birdsong, to plant a few seeds in our backyard planter box, to say thank you to the trees in the local park for refreshing our air and climate. Perhaps we walk with family members, or a few friends (five or less, all six feet apart) and wave at neighbours watching from their windows.

Here in Caledon it is cold and sunny on this Earth Day, and quiet. It gives us a chance to listen to Earth song, perhaps like the great Eastern seaboard blackout of 2003 gave us a chance to star gaze in awe as the Milky Way swept across the sky. Now in 2020, with the fossil fuel motors of industry and transportation reduced to a whimper, perhaps now we can listen again.

Perhaps here in the beauty of King and Caledon it is easier for us to listen. It is much more difficult in crowded cities around the world and in rural areas steeped in famine and poverty. Even in developed cities in North America, the clarion call of individual rights trumpeted by evangelical conservative republicans threatens the silence. A healthy quiet on this Earth Day can only prosper in an environment of respect that honours community responsibilities over individual rights.

When the pandemic has passed we can gather in noisy mobs debating the finer points of Ayn Rand’s philosophy versus the community conscience of a just society, but for now let’s just stay home, stay healthy, and watch from the window.

A wise and wonderful human named Father Thomas Berry once wrote, “For centuries we have been autistic to the voices of the Earth. It is time we once again joined in the grand liturgy of the Universe.”

On this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, it’s a good time to listen. The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, Caledon