Mother May I…?

I like reading Joel Rubinoff’s stuff. I don’t read it as often as I should but he always has an interesting take on what he chooses to write about. Now, he got buzzed by COVID-19 when his COVID alert app went off, and he wrote about the experience of dealing with conflicting rules and impossible guidelines.

The on-site doc was conflicted: Get tested, isolate, and if it comes back negative, you’re free to go. No wait, get tested AND isolate for 14 days, whichever takes longer. No wait, whichever is shorter.
Unsure what to do, I call public health, who tell me that since we have no symptoms, we don’t have to self-isolate — self-monitoring is fine.
Wait, what? I’m self-isolating for nothing?
When I inform my wife — who spends a significant amount of time monitoring government health announcements — that I’ve procured a “get out of jail free” card, she’s skeptical until the quietly reassuring nurse confirms our nightmare is over.
But which of these respected health sources has their facts straight? Are decisions based on the whims of whoever you talk to at the time?

I know we’re all struggling to figure this out, but the process of discovering public health guidelines shouldn’t feel like the process of researching cable package options at Rogers. I shouldn’t have to call three times and see if I get three identicle answers.

We got news of how things are supposed to work if we choose to return to the office. For the most part, the instructions are easy to understand. But when I got to the part about what to do if you are ill, and the difference between being ill with COVID or non-COVID illnesses, the rules got really confusing. At the time I blamed it on the screen-reader not being able to parse the PDF, but maybe not. Maybe we’re all confused.

I thought the answer he received was interesting when he inquired about why the app always tells people to get tested, whether the person is symptomatic or asymptomatic, whether they probably know how risky their exposure was.

The app cannot separate low-risk from high-risk contacts. It’s another tool in the provincial system to identify people who may need to self-monitor or self-isolate and get tested.

So maybe we should build a bit of risk assessment into the app instead of just giving a blanket statement? It’s one thing to say “get tested.” It’s another to live through what that entails, possibly multiple times.

And these new specifications that were rolled out just before Thanksgiving confuse him and me both.

Get together. Don’t get together. Family members only. No, wait, whoever is in your bubble. No, wait, whoever is living under your roof. Is that the same thing? OK, you can include one other person, but only if they’re living alone. And tell 96-year-old Auntie Jean to sit tight in quarantine so we can loop her in on the iPad.

It reminds me of this song

The song goes “Mother, may I go out to swim?
Yes, my darling daughter
Hang your clothes on a hickory limb
but don’t go near the water.”

There was a Facebook post expressing the sentiment of “So I can’t see my family, but I can go to a fitness class with 9 strangers?” That, right there, is why people get frustrated.

I know there are people that don’t care to follow the rules or decide the rules don’t apply to them. Those people are jerks. But then there are bunches of us who do want to follow the rules, but they feel arbitrary and contradictory. I know this is a learning process for all of us, but I really think if those supposedly in the know could get their facts straight and if rules made sense, more people would follow them more closely.

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1 Comment

  1. The rules are absolutely confusing. I often wonder how they decide on them. What is it I like to say, did they come to this decision via dart board or hat? I absolutely want to do things right and I think that throughout this whole thing we’ve tried our best, but I understand why we’re at a point where there are otherwise law-abiding people who have decided fuck it. They aren’t going to be reckless, but they also aren’t just going to sit back and swallow the sudden proclamation that people they’ve just seen and who they were told were safe yesterday suddenly aren’t. And yes, this is especially so when you’re allowed to pull a lever at a casino with 49 strangers or send your kids to a crammed box with 30 other people but you aren’t allowed to see your mom. It makes no sense. Granted a lot of things about all of this make no sense, but there’s stuff that makes no sense for a reason and there’s stuff that makes no sense because it’s dumb. And if all of this is frustrating the good folks, what do you suppose it’s doing to the ones who never gave a shit?

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