Sask residents rally as COVID fourth wave strikes kids

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Fuck them kids Rooky Jegede

Sask worst in Canada for cases

20 months into the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed 4.5 million people and left countless others with long-term, life-altering disabilities, lax and/or non-existent public health policies to curb the spread of the virus have led Saskatchewan into a catastrophic fourth wave that threatens to be far worse than the province has seen since the first case of COVID-19 was detected here in March 2020. Saskatchewan has among the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the country, and on September 8 overtook Alberta as the province with the highest rate of infection. Saskatchewan has also been posting record single-day positive cases with alarming frequency over the past few weeks and doctors and nurses are raising the alarm that hospitals are filling with COVID-19 patients, the majority of them unvaccinated, at a rate that means elective surgeries are going to be cancelled or postponed, leading to a reduced quality of life for non-COVID patients (elective doesn’t mean optional, or unnecessary; it simply means non-emergency surgeries that can be scheduled in advance). The province is also seeing greater numbers of COVID-19 infections in younger patients than at any other time during the pandemic, including hundreds of cases in children too young to be vaccinated, some of whom are showing signs of “long COVID,” a cluster of debilitating symptoms that can affect any number of body systems and persist for months.

Some Saskatchewan residents are viewing the increasingly dire situation as the result of an abdication of duty by the Saskatchewan Party, who have been largely absent throughout the summer and seem uninterested in governing for public health. It was out of this growing sense of anger and frustration that the Protest to Protect was born. Emma Love, who is married to Saskatchewan NDP MLA Matt Love, was one of the coordinators of the protest, which was held on the steps of the Legislature on September 9 and drew 100-200 people. Love is frank about her view on the Saskatchewan Party’s approach to the virus. “It’s wrong, it’s reckless, and it’s dangerous.”

Love, who is the mother of three children too young to be vaccinated, said that her inspiration when planning the protest was her children. “Last year, all of our kids, everyone, really, but especially our kids, they gave up so much,” Love said. “They missed Christmases with Grandmas and birthdays and soccer games and graduations so they could keep all of us safe and we need to do that now as a society while we wait for them to be vaccinated.”

Before she helped organize the protest, which was pulled together in two and a half days, Love said her eight-year-old son called Scott Moe’s office and left a message, asking for more protections for kids. “So when we were talking about how overwhelming it is to see that our numbers are so awful, that we have increased numbers of deaths, that our hospitals are struggling and that the government we have that has taken an oath to protect us is doing nothing and golfing instead, I was like, ‘I need to do something. But what if no one shows up?’ And my eight-year-old responded and he said ‘I called Scott Moe and he didn’t answer the phone, but it was still the right thing to do.’”

Love was pleased with the turnout, even though anti-maskers also showed up. “I kind of felt like I had the option to feel one of two ways about that,” Love said. “And the first was to be incredibly angry. But the other was, I just felt filled with compassion, because at the end of the day there’s people who value freedom and there’s people who value responsibility, and I don’t want any of those people to get sick.”

Love, who has been double-vaccinated, said that her concern reaches farther than her own household. “The reason I care about this is not just about my own freedom or my own rights. It’s because I truly want people to be safe and well. I want to protect our kids and our doctors and nurses and frontline workers who have worked so hard for us in the past year. And I felt really filled with compassion for these people who were so angry about something that was there to help them.”

Love said she believes that Saskatchewan has become a model for the rest of the country of what not to do when it comes to COVID-19. “This government continues to put all their trust in only one tool that is at the disposal of the medical community despite so many calls to have a layered approach.” She said she’s written to Health Minister Paul Merriman and called his office daily with no results. “I think I would be a fool at this point to expect that this government wants to be transparent and connect with people. A strong leader right now would be making decisions right now that weren’t based on what the minority demands, but were based on science and evidence, and they would be having daily updates.”

She said she’s shocked at the sharp downward turn the province has taken when it comes to managing the pandemic. “I didn’t know we could go this low, where we’d just say ‘ah, how many is appropriate? How many children is it okay to get sick?’ And for me, the answer is ‘none.’ We want to keep every person as well as we can. Any preventable death and suffering, it seems like our job to do something about.”

Love added that Saskatchewan has to be ready to play the long game when it comes to managing COVID-19. “What we do today, it will take weeks for us to see the difference,” she said. “So as we’re barreling towards these numbers with exponential growth, we have to have a long-term view of turning things around.”

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