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EDITORIAL: One year later, what has COVID taught us?

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Alberta on March 5, 2020. Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of provincial health emergency on March 17, 2020.
opinion

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Alberta on March 5, 2020.

Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of provincial health emergency on March 17, 2020. That was a week after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic due to the novel coronavirus. 

One year later, what has this experience taught us? There are some key learnings that should be carefully extracted from this process and we should not let the different levels of government off the hook from any of these lessons.

The first is governments are not inherently motivated to learn from their own mistakes. This is problematic, because as citizens who value efficiency and effectiveness, we would think learning would become a standard operating practice. 

We have also learned when as a society we privatize long-term care of the seniors in our community to companies that place a higher priority on profits than people, we are in danger of suffering the catastrophic loss of human life.

This type of public policy devalues seniors and their quality of life. This is not a good look, Canada, and every single province has some serious soul searching to do when it comes to how this virus ravaged these types of communal residences. Let's hope this is a lesson governments learn from and we can at some point look back and say we improved not only these outcomes, but the quality of life for countless Canadian seniors. 

Devaluing and dehumanizing certain groups of people has been a bit of a theme in COVID, and we shouldn't stand for it. 

When we prefer our own personal conveniences over protecting the lives of those who are vulnerable, which is no fault of their own, we are being selfish instead of being compassionate. Certain governments have made it easier for people to be selfish, like when Alberta Health began listing the comorbidities for the people who died from COVID as a standard practice. 

As a result of this intentional and reprehensible action by our provincial government, we have learned some people will use a person's own vulnerabilities against them just to avoid responsibility for their preventable death. 

We have learned not everyone is schooled in the skill of recognizing credible sources of information, and that listening to scientific experts isn't everyone's preferred methodology for learning how things like a deadly virus works. What we have not yet learned, however, is why some people are motivated to spread misinformation in a crisis, leading to unnecessary stress, conflict and in this case, loss of life. 

Many lessons throughout the past year have centred around food. Clearly when things are not OK, some of us try to make it better by cooking and baking, and feeding our family, friends and neighbours. 

This support from within our communities has been a buoy to our spirits. It has not been all doom and gloom, because even in crisis there are those among us who rise up to help those who need it. That could be with a home-cooked meal, or an elementary classroom showing up outside senior's housing in our community to sing songs and bring smiles to the faces of those who have been truly isolated throughout this past year. 

From the bells of St.-George's-in-the-Pines, to the continued support of the Food and Friends program, we have learned within our little valley community that there are those who require very little recognition for their efforts.

From those who run errands for everyone who finds themselves in isolation or quarantine, the greatest lesson COVID taught us is our communities will always rise up to meet the challenge being dished out to us by life. 

One year into this crisis, with all the uncertainty and challenges it has thrown into our daily lives, there is hope this will all be resolved when everyone who wants to is able to get vaccinated.