Nearly a full year into a worldwide pandemic a number of people gathered along Broadway Street in downtown Yorkton Saturday holding what was termed a ‘no fear protest’.
The event was focused on the ongoing response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, with participants carrying placards asking people to ‘stand up for their freedom’, ‘know your rights, protect your rights’ and ‘no more fear mongering’ with the group applauded when a car would pass and the driver honked its horn.
One can appreciate the frustration people feel regarding COVID-19. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we have lived our lives for the past year, and with the arrival of spring people are simply antsy to return to some level of normalcy.
But, the timing of the protest also seems rather unusual, in the sense that as the vaccination program rolls out we appear closer to the return to normal than we have in months, provided the continued high infection rates doesn’t see COVID-19 mutate into something more concerning that the vaccines will not offer protection from.
We only need to look at the situation of the National Hockey League Vancouver Canucks where the so-called ‘Brazilian’ mutation has infected practically the entire roster, showing how highly contagious it is.
There is also the question of what freedoms the protestor signs referred to that are being so blatantly stepped on?
Wearing a protective mask has been a concern by some, but it is little different than the no smoking in public places law. People can take the risk of smoking outside and at home, but not in a business where their second hand smoke poses a threat to others.
Wearing a mask is as much about protecting the others in the grocery line, or the worker on the cash register as it is about one’s own health.
Ultimately, we live in a world where much of what we do is governed by rules, regulations and laws which we may, or may not agree with, but we are expected to follow.
The protestors are not likely to speed through a school zone, or drive without their seatbelts, or walk into a restaurant without their shoes and shirts on, a hundred other things we follow as a matter of course daily.
Living in Yorkton you even have rules regarding how high a yard fence can be, and that how unlicensed cars can be stored in your yard.
So when rules are imposed regarding community health they seem a strange place to draw a line in the sand and protest against.
You might argue the death rate is not huge, although the families of near 450 dead in Saskatchewan might not see much solace in the low rate.
But, the greater concern in terms of community health is that COVID-19 infections are already filling ICUs and putting pressure on hospital resources. If infections were to suddenly spike significantly higher, pushed perhaps by a variant, the system would be hard-pressed to meet needs and the death rate could spike higher too.
Wearing a mask, staying well away from others in public, and getting vaccinated when we can, seems like rather reasonable steps to protect our community.