So François Legault wants to play the blame game with the Federal government for not supplying vaccines fast enough? Fine, procurement is a federal responsibility, so fair enough. We’ll handwave away that even a month into the vaccination campaign, Quebec still has only used some 85% of the vaccine supply we have on hand — and that a week ago, that number was below 50%. But Legault et al are insistent on patting themselves on the back for a job well done, while simultaneously blaming Justin Trudeau for not supplying enough.
1. CLOSE THE SCHOOLS
We now have data to back up what any damn fool could have told you last fall: Schools are a major source of spread of COVID19. They were responsible for roughly 1 in 3 cases in Montreal prior to the holidays.
I’ve heard every excuse in the book, ranging from the need to protect kids’ fragile mental health (as though the mental health of healthcare workers, adults who’ve lost their jobs or livelihoods, or families mourning the loss of loved ones doesn’t count) to “schools are safe” (we have hard evidence that they’re not) to “insufficient teachers to implement distance learning” (when they’re successfully doing this literally everywhere else in the world). None of them are the truth. They’re all just excuses.
2. SET UP ISOLATION HOTELS.
We need free, safe, no-questions-asked places for people in densely populated cities to go if they feel they might be showing symptoms, where they can self-isolate from their families and other household members without getting them sick. Ontario is doing this. Why aren’t we?
Most apartment dwellers don’t have the privilege assumed by the public health guidelines — separate floors, separate bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. — to self-isolate at home. Many people have family members who are seniors or high risk individuals. If one member of a household gets sick, more quickly follow. But many have nowhere else to go.
Our hotels are mostly empty. Let’s repurpose them for this, inviting people to come and stay in a place where they will be provided with meals, laundry, internet access so they can work and communicate, and support by healthcare staff.
3. DEPLOY RAPID TESTING.
4. FIX OUR BROKEN CONTACT TRACING.
At this point it’s as though Quebec has utterly given up on contact tracing. But in order to fight this pandemic with the scalpel of isolated outbreak quarantines rather than the vastly more damaging hammer of mass lockdowns, we need to have this capacity in place, urgently. As soon as case numbers come down enough to allow us to start reopening sectors of society, the only way we avoid making the same mistakes as last summer and being right back in this mess is by contact tracing meaningfully.
5. CREATE A REAL PLAN FOR VACCINATION.
- Distribution networks — we’ll need large mass vaccination sites in cities, like arenas or parks. We’ll need smaller, decentralized places, like pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and CLSCs.
- Personnel to administer the vaccine. We have a major shortage of nurses, but we need to recruit and train anyone who can help — pharmacists, doctors, medical students, dentists, paramedics, heck, I’ve even heard talk of veterinarians. We’ll need to be able to deliver half a million vaccinations per week, which means we need to recruit and train tens of thousands of extra personnel right now, not later, when the vaccines arrive.
- Safety protocols for distribution — PPE for those administering it, ventilation in the clinics, open-air and drive-through clinics — to ensure that the clinics themselves don’t become superspreader events. Immunocompromised or highly vulnerable people will need heightened safety protocols at these clinics, and their needs must be taken into account as well.
- Creating a registry system and pre-registering literally everyone in Quebec. We can ask them for their health information, age and other relevant info, and assign them to a priority number based on this criteria. That way, when we start vaccinating a given group, we’ll be able to notify people when it’s their turn, and also get back in touch when it’s time for their second dose.
- Establish a vaccination record certificate, wallet card, etc. for the inevitable post-pandemic period when it will become a passport back to some semblance of regular life. The CDC is already doing this in the US, and provinces such as BC and Ontario have a system in place. Quebec has no clue.
6. FREEZE RENT INCREASES AND HALT EVICTIONS.
7. CAP FEES ON RESTAURANT DELIVERY APPS.
8. ALLOW SOME (LIMITED, SMALL) OUTDOOR SOCIAL GATHERINGS AGAIN.
9. PRIORITIZE RESOURCES FOR THE HOMELESS.