Yes, Alabama, you can travel

Yes, Alabama, you can travel

Out of curiosity, how many of you have looked up what in the Greek alphabet comes after omicron? And am I the only one who doesn’t give a black olive at this point? It’s been nearly two years of us, sensible smart people that we are, doing all we can to plank curves, wash hands, stay two metres apart, get vaccinated and generally live like underpaid writers except for the few exceptional people in our lives we choose to spend time with in very small, controlled groups. It’s fair to say we’re ready for the next phase. 

Mine includes traveling. As the most observant among you will have noticed, thanks to my not shutting up about it on social media, I’ve been on the move lately. Some road-tripping and some plane-tripping. Only in North America so far, but man is Europe tempting. It’s not until you dust off your suitcases that you realize how you’ve missed going places.

It’s my second time in northern Alabama in the last month alone. I find Huntsville endlessly fascinating, enough to write a book about. People here think it’s weird that I find them interesting. But that’s not what matters. The really important part is what getting back on the road can teach us about learning to thrive in a pandemic. 

It boils down to this: take all the right precautions but do not live in fear. On this front the Southern cities I’ve recently visited, including Atlanta and Nashville, are way ahead of us in Ontario. Pretty much everyone here is done being scared of COVID-19. Maybe it comes from being a culture that accommodates guns everywhere including openly carried on the hips of law-abiding adults. You learn to treat dangerous things with the respect they deserve, but no more. 

I’m thinking we could learn from that. Without bothering with the guns, I mean.  

We were told by scientists and public health experts that the key to getting out from under the threat of endless lockdowns was to continue with physical distancing and masks, improve ventilation, not talk moistly and get as many people vaccinated as possible. Also? Contact tracing and rapid testing. And by golly, now that the smart people are vaxxed and test themselves before crossing borders or even gathering with family and friends, it’s time to resume doing the things we love, carefully and in accordance with our own personal level of tolerance for risk. 

The COVID-19 problems we continue to have are almost exclusively caused by unvaccinated people and, in Ontario, the inexplicable lack of rapid testing available on a grand scale at no cost. As we head into a season of traveling and socializing, the latter is thoroughly unconscionable. 

Especially when it comes to school kids who may gather with family over the break and unwittingly bring back the virus and shut down their entire school in January. Why not make sure rapid testing is available to anyone at no fee? There were rumblings a little while ago that school children in Ontario would be sent home with rapid tests but if it’s happening this parent of three children in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has not heard the details yet. At the moment, we have to go to a pharmacy or private lab to get tested and it’s $40, or more, a pop. To not make those tests available for free is exactly the wrong thing to do. We don’t want anyone to say “I’m not paying $40 to get tested, I’ll take my chances.” Because it’s not only their chances they’re taking.

Pi comes after omicron and I don’t care. I’m ready to start living again, gathering safely and traveling ditto. Being doubly or triply vaxxed, wearing masks and getting tested regularly is the way to do it. The latter should be the government’s top priority so we can avoid a repeat of last year’s post-holiday lockdowns.