By ALAN SHACKLETON
As I write this column on Monday in advance of our press deadline for this week’s paper, I have to tell you that I don’t know what the next few weeks are going to bring us when it comes to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the impacts it will have on our community, our province and our country.
This is an extraordinary and unprecedented situation. The information on exactly what is happening and what we need to do next is evolving rapidly.
The last few days here at Beach Metro News as have been pretty intense as we have put together the March 17 edition of your newspaper.
The front page is dedicated to COVID-19 coverage and how it’s impacting life locally.
The situation, however, is changing so quickly it’s hard to know what the next news cycle is going to bring.
After our paper went to press today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the nation on the next measures to be taken in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. He said we are closing our borders to non-Canadians, with the exception of U.S. citizens, at this point in time.
What happens tomorrow or next week? I don’t know.
I can’t even begin to guess what may or may not change in the coming days.
There are all kinds of “what if” scenarios on the table, and we’ll have to see what happens next.
What I want our readers to know is that all of us here at Beach Metro News feel a great amount of pride in the newspaper we produce and the role it plays in the East Toronto community.
We have a sense of deep responsibility to our readers, and we want to keep you informed through this crisis.
However, I just don’t know what the future’s going to bring regarding people going to their jobs, working from home or having to adhere to strict self-isolation rules or social distancing rules
Please remember that we have a very small staff and depend enormously on our volunteers who go out and deliver the paper to you.
We’re all going to do our best here, and it’s my hope that we’ll be communicating with you all again in print on March 31 with some positive news on the COVID-19 front.
In the meantime, please continue to regularly check with us online at beachmetro.com
That being said, I do want to warn people against panicking in the next few weeks. We need to take this very seriously, but rushing grocery stores and hoarding does not help. Crowding emergency rooms because you sneezed does not help.
As reported , local grocery stores did see a run over the past few days and it really seemed to be at it’s worst on Thursday night with line-ups out the doors of many stores. Right now I can’t say enough good things about the people working long hours in stores as they deal with this situation and the fears of many of their customers.
I’m not going to criticize those people who packed the stores Thursday night as the news that Toronto’s publicly funded schools would be closing for three weeks to try and stop the spread of the virus came out. That was shocking to me at first, and I’m sure to many others. In retrospect, it of course makes perfect sense, but it is unprecedented and not surprisingly elevated the concern level.
It put a lot of people into the mindset that they would not even be allowed to leave their homes for the next three weeks, and they had better buy every conceivable item they possibly might need to get through that.
A lot of that need to stock up seemed to manifest itself in buying toilet paper. At first I had some trouble understanding that, but I’ve since been hearing from psychologists who explain it as a reaction some people are having to try and gain control over this frightening situation. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next, but at least they have the toilet paper situation under control and that makes them feel better about everything else. So be it.
I have no use, though, for people buying up excessive amounts of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes, and then trying to sell them at outrageous prices online. Those people are terrible human beings and should be ashamed of themselves.
There are going to be difficult times ahead and we need to be helping each other, not trying to profit from this.
While there’s no need to panic, precautions most definitely do need to be taken in the coming weeks.
Please heed the advice coming from the medical experts at Toronto Public Health. They will be releasing updated information on their website at www.toronto.ca/coronavirus
Toronto Public Health can also be reached by phone at 416-338-7600. Their hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday to Friday; and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
Let me wrap this up by noting that local politicians are reminding residents that we are in this together and we need to be supportive and kind to each other.
There are going to be some tough times to face in the future. It’s uncertain what’s going to happen next, and that is scary. We need to stay strong, though, and know that we’re going to get through this together and there will be better days ahead.