Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 5

Are those young people really COVIDIOTS?

We’ve seen the pictures: hordes of young people congregating in parks, on beaches and at other areas in spite of all the recommendations that everyone self-isolate, congregate only in small groups (fewer than 10 people) and maintain a 2 meter (6 foot) distance. Political leaders are among those who are outraged at this apparently ignorant, up-yours attitude of so many people, and they are now implementing some draconian regulations.

We took the “self-isolating” (a.k.a. quarantine) message seriously. Why did so many, especially young people, ignore it?

Perhaps those of us “of an age,” as they say, grew up in a time when communicable diseases ran through communities quite frequently. I grew up in the 1950s at a time when various diseases swept through schools each fall and winter – whooping cough, measles, rubella, scarlet fever, mumps and conjunctivitis among them. I caught all of them, as did my brother, as did just about every kid and the occasional adult. My brother almost died from whooping cough; I almost died from measles. There were no vaccines for any of those diseases back then; quarantine was routine, normal, expected.

I vaguely remember the scourge of polio. My mother received a letter one summer from her brother and sister-in-law who lived in Winnipeg. She wrote that they were keeping their children at home so they wouldn’t contract polio. Swimming pools and other community gathering places were closed during those summer epidemics. Then the Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin invented their vaccines and polio became a thing of the past. Mostly.

I remember the tuberculosis X-ray van coming to our town from time to time. Everyone lined up to get an X-ray of their chests. Those who were infected were sent to “Fort San,” a huge complex outside of Fort Qu’Appelle in the Qu’Appelle Valley. One of my mother’s cousins spent some time there in the 1950s.

Eventually, vaccines were developed for most communicable diseases and they became a thing of the past.

Or so we thought.

We no longer experience those regularly recurring mini-epidemics, so perhaps that is why so many young people are cavalier about self-isolation. They have not experienced the fear of a disease sweeping through their community, laying many people low, even resulting in the death of a few of them.

Perhaps the COVID-19 epidemic will cause us all to become a little less blasé about communicable diseases.

* * *

From “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!“, the Spanish Influenza (part 4):

The first blow was when we heard that Mr. Frost had passed away . He had been sick for a mere two days. He was only 26 and left behind a wife and a small child, both of them still sick, too. Then we heard that Mrs. Stapleton, north of town, had passed away. How many more would die, we wondered.

It kept getting worse. Abe came home one day to say that the school trustees had decided to close the school. The town council passed a law forbidding spitting in public, about time that they banned that disgusting habit, I thought. Mr. Howell refused to let people get off the train in case they were infected, and the town council even debated blockading the roads although in the end they decided not to, too many of us farm folk still had to come into town for groceries and the like. And it wasn’t just Meyronne. All over the country, towns were closing down their roads and stations just to try to stop the spread of the flu.

Rev. Beauchamp decided to suspend services until the flu had run its course. The saddest thing was that there weren’t even any funerals for those who had passed away, they were just quickly buried and sometimes without the family in attendance because they were too sick. Such a fearful and sorrowful time it was.

To be continued . . .

#COVID-19 #NovelCoronavirus #SelfIsolation #Quarantine #GoodNeighbours #Pandemic #SocialDistancing #MargaretGHanna

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