Daphne Bramham: COVIDiots refuse to accept the grim reality on the front lines

Opinion: The loss of a friend who took COVID precautions leaves columnist angered by anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers

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In the days before Twitter, Bob Watson was a news photographer and he kept a police scanner bleating on his bedside table all night long.

Bob revelled in his job, even its grisly bits, although I expect the scanner was put in its rightful place after he married Karen and they had their children, Alana and Sean.

Bob loved his adopted home of Regina. He loved people, talked to everyone and remembered almost all of them. He had a great laugh and a great eye for an image. Most of all, he was kind.

My friend and former Regina LeaderPost colleague died Sunday morning from COVID-19. He was 79.

The city that the London, Ont. native grew to love is in lockdown, a pandemic hot spot in a province with higher infection rates per capita than most of the rest of Canada.

It’s why I can’t separate the sadness over his death from my raw anger at the stupidity of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers including the two Regina women fined $2,800 for organizing a Saturday protest that attracted 30 people, the owners and customers at the Corduroy and Gusto restaurants in Vancouver who ignored the ban on indoor dining, and the loudmouth Instagramer building an audience by provoking people as he drives up and down Robson Street with his megaphone.

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I’m angry at the mindless, childish banality of their protests as I think of the faces of grieving families and exhausted, anxious health-care workers and others on the front lines at groceries, pharmacies, schools and other essential services.

Chanting “Freedom, freedom” in a restaurant that should have been closed would be biting satire on Saturday Night Live. Instead, it was stupidly real at Corduroy this past Saturday.

As for megaphone guy, I fully understand why a cyclist used his bicycle to smash the side of the guy’s vehicle last week and was subsequently arrested.

But I don’t deny that everyone has a right to free speech.

The Corduroy restaurant in Vancouver has had its licence suspended for failing to abide by provincial health orders.
The Corduroy restaurant in Vancouver has had its licence suspended for failing to abide by provincial health orders. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Perhaps these people haven’t had friends or family affected by this pandemic. They’re lucky. But they’re delusional thinking that they’re not at risk and also incredibly selfish to think that they aren’t a risk to others.

There have been more than a million Canadians who have had COVID or have tested positive. Health Canada’s most recent Friday update recorded 50,973 people in hospital, 8,991 in intensive care and 1,603 on ventilators.

The virus is spreading relentlessly and the longer it spreads, the greater likelihood of it mutating into a more deadly variants like the one identified in Brazil. Three times more infectious that COVID-19, it’s infecting increasing numbers of younger people including Vancouver Canucks’ players.

I know that public officials have a hell of a job making life-altering decisions day after day. Their assumption that the overwhelming majority would comply with their recommendations was right.

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Still, it increasingly seems that restrictions and their enforcement are too little and too late.

Why didn’t B.C. shut down Whistler (population 40,000) before its case count hit 247 in the last week of March, nearly eight times what it had been in the first week of the month and more than the totals of at least one province and a couple of territories?

When inspectors at Corduroy were shouted down and forced out on Saturday night, police should been called in to immediately to shut it down and suspend its licences.

To bring this pandemic under control, it’s going to take a high percentage of inoculated people. Until then, there are only the cruder tools like masks, social distancing and stay-at-home orders to slow the mutating virus. It’s been a tough year of restrictions.

So, what’s a few weeks or months to save lives and make it easier for those on the front lines like another friend, a paramedic?

There was a day last week when ambulances had trouble getting across one of Vancouver’s bridges because of an anti-mask protest, she told me Monday before hanging up to rush to a call.

“It’s beyond challenging,” she responded later in a hurried text. “I struggle to see my patients through a fogged up face shield, but end up screaming just to have a simple conversation … because nobody can hear us through the PPE (personal protective equipment).”

There is the constant cleaning and disinfecting of the ambulance and the cot. Each shift is busier than before because there are more calls, more time needed to disinfect between them and because the B.C. Ambulance Service is short-staffed as paramedics test positive or burn out.

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She didn’t want her name used because she’s stressed enough without attracting the attention of COVIDiots.

“On top of the PPE wearing all day, you get multiple headaches, rashes on your face and jaw pain and dehydration because you end up not drinking water.

“And you’re not sleeping well and you’re always on because you never escape at work or after you go home.”

Yet, bored, fearless “rebels” are prolonging and spreading the agony.

I don’t know how my friend Bob contracted the virus. But I know he would have been careful. Bob cared too much about others to put them at risk.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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