We’re not exactly built to put blind faith in our politicians.
For this, I will take my share of the blame as a member of the fourth estate and, specifically, as political columnists whose job it is to critique public policy.
One gets that. It’s just the nature of the beast and is certainly no grounds for complaint.
But maybe what we all should be thinking about right now how we view our political leadership at a time of crisis in a adversarial parliamentary democracy that isn’t exactly built of times of crisis.
The thought crosses one’s mind in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic scare _ one that’s become even scarier because of it’s the responsibility of government’s right now to examine “what-ifs” and “worst-case scenarios.”
Such a scenario for this province _ one was modelled by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) as a tool to prevent this very thing from happening _ was recently leaked to reporters in this province. What it suggested was, taken in isolation, rather frightening.
Called "COVID-19 Planning Doc: Strategy for Continuity of Health Services and Surge Capacity", the power point presentation suggested COVID-19 will “almost certainly overwhelm the health system” because our hospitals simply cannot be designed for the influx of thousands of patients at once.
Based on a scientifically estimated infection rate of 30 per cent (which some suggest is the low-end for potential COVID-19 infections), we could see more than 300,000 Saskatchewan people infected by what is viewed as pretty contagious virus.
And while the worldwide rate of death is only between .5 and two per cent, statistics take on a different meaning when you talk about the potential of 9,000 to 15,000 people here dying. The document talks of a potential need to turn hockey rinks into hospitals if we see a severe outbreak in certain area.
It takes this stuff pretty seriously and so should we.
“ Demand for acute services will exceed existing capacity for hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators as well as creating a major burden on other acute services, supports, HR, supplies, and equipment," the report forewarned.
But maybe it’s about here where we need to put things in perspective … and maybe even reassess how we usually criticize our politician.
We first need understand that this scenario is based on doing nothing. Instead, we shut down most things and need to keep them shut down so we don’t swamp the health system.
We could also avoid the politics of pointing fingers at a government leadership.
That seems to be how things are going in the United States where the COVID-19 outbreak is far worse and U.S. President Donald Trump is blaming New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for not buying more ventilators five years ago.
And there are certainly things governments could have done better _ especially in Saskatchewan when, a few weeks ago, the focus was on an early election rather than where it should have been.
Or we could accept that no one could have truly anticipated the magnitude of the crisis.
Certainly, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe deserves credit _ and our support _ for implementing some of the strictest COVID-19 prevention measures in our county.
Moe could obviously do more. It would be more than just a gesture to bring municipal leaders and even NDP Opposition leader Ryan Meili (a doctor) into the decision-making fold.
These are unprecedented times.
But at the very least, we should be doing what our politicians and the experts are telling us to do: Don’t gather in groups bigger than 10 people. Keep six feet apart. Wash our hands. Stay at home.
Our leadership needs our support right now as much as we need leadership.