Essential- (adjective) absolutely necessary, extremely important.
While the definition of the word may seem pretty straight forward, at various points in the pandemic trying to classify what exactly falls under the umbrella of essential has been very much up for debate.
That’s been on display over the last week. It didn’t take long for photos taken inside big box stores showing ‘non-essential’ items taped off to start circulating social media. Unsurprisingly, it was met with mixed reactions. Some took to complaining items such as barbecues are still available for purchase, but school supplies are not.
At one point there was a report one store had blocked off masks since technically, because of the material they were made from, they qualified as clothing. The matter was rather quickly resolved, but if nothing else it shows just how fluid and open for interpretation the rules have become.
Like virtually every rule put in place relating to COVID-19, it’s not perfect. Less than 24 hours notice was given to retailers and as has been an ongoing theme the last 14 months, there really wasn’t much precedent to draw upon when making up the guidelines.
And yes, it does seem a little silly some hastily strung up caution tape is meant to prevent a customer from plucking one particular item from a shelf and adding it to their cart. They’re already in the store and it’s fair to say there isn’t an added risk of spreading the virus if they add a ‘non-essential’ item to their collection of ‘essential’ items before heading to the checkout line.
But in the interest of fairness, the province had to do something to level the playing field. Small businesses have already been hammered by the pandemic. Forcing them to again go to curbside pickup while larger retail centres that happen to sell food and miscellaneous items remained completely open just isn’t fair.
The solution is an awkward compromise, but it’s at least something. Not everyone sees it that way and there’s been more than one report of customers expressing their frustration with the rules to the employees who are only following the law. That’s not to say everyone has to agree with the logic or the reasoning, but badgering the employee that is simply trying to do his or her job doesn’t help the situation.
Then there are those who don’t see the need at all for this third lockdown. Or stay at home order, or even implementation of the emergency brake.
Much like the word essential, just finding a title to describe what exactly the province is currently experiencing can be very different depending on whom is getting asked.
Regardless of the name applied to it, in talking to KFLA Public Health medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, the increased measures are very much needed. The worst-case scenario that was talked about often last March-the thought of ICUs being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients is now very much a reality. Tragically the KFLA region saw its second death due to COVID-19 this week and case numbers continue to climb. Case loads in the Quinte area are also climbing as Variants of Concern start to take hold all over the region.
Once again it’s time for communities to rally together and do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19. Doing so with a little extra kindness wouldn’t hurt, either.
Adam Prudhomme is editor of the Napanee Beaver
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