Northern Pen : 2020-03-25

Opinion : 4 : 4


4 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2020 THE NORTHERN PEN • SALTWIRE.COM Opinion Talking to children With three confirmed cases of children having coronaviru­s in Canada — as of this writing — parents’ concerns may be understand­ably heightened. One of the children affected in this country is in Alberta, the others are in New Brunswick and Ontario. But before parents let their fears spiral, it’s important to put the numbers in context. A recent scientific paper from JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Associatio­n, found that of 72,314 cases of COVID-19 in China, where the pandemic has had its firmest grip so far, only one per cent or so were children aged nine years or younger, and roughly the same percentage were aged 10 to 19 years, and “no deaths occurred in the group aged nine years and younger.” As Infection Prevention and Control Canada says of the study in China, “Children made up 2.4 per cent of the cases and almost none was severely ill.” Still, it’s hard not to worry, and worried parents’ anxieties are often transmitte­d to their children. That’s why it’s important to talk to children about coronaviru­s and try to allay their fears as best we can. Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, and the prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederikse­n, both held news conference­s recently expressly for children, in order to answer their questions directly. (It’s an idea we’ve shared with the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa). During Solberg’s news conference with Norwegian kids, the questions included everything from why birthday parties had to be cancelled to queries about the prime minister’s own health. Children today are more plugged into the world than ever, and we need to give them accurate informatio­n — appropriat­e for their age group — so that they aren’t frightened further by the misinforma­tion that is running rampant on the internet. “It has been special days . ... Many children think it is scary,” Solberg said, as reported by Reuters news service. “It is OK to be scared when so many things happen at the same time.” Experts say it’s as important not to minimize children’s fears as it is not to exacerbate them. Dr. Janine Hubbard, a psychologi­st in St. John’s, says one thing parents can do is remind their children that while people they know and love may get sick because of coronaviru­s, they can get better, too, just as they do when they catch a cold. “The biggest thing is letting them know that there are things they can do, there are things in their power and in their control to try to control things,” Hubbard says. “So, talking about the washing hands, talking about the sneezing and coughing into your sleeve, talking about making sure we’re keeping people safe.” Kids can also be told that scientists are busy working on a vaccine that will combat coronaviru­s — hopefully before too long. Knowledge is power. I am going to make this concise. The concern on everybody’s mind is COVID-19. So, first and foremost, listen to the experts, the officials, and the leaders. Our province is fortunate to have our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, doing daily media briefings. Our Health Minister Dr. John Haggie was a medical doctor and Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh was a nurse — we have the experts, officials, and leadership. With that being said, I am writing today to speak about the pragmatism that is required from each and every one of us at this time. There is a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt (The 26th president of the United States) “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” So, what — in the context of COVID-19 — does this mean for you and I? Well, I will give you a personal example: I live with my grandparen­ts, they are healthy 70+ year olds with no underlinin­g health issues. However, they are still members of the demographi­c that will be hardest hit by the effects of COVID-19. So, my grandparen­ts are going to limit their potential exposure by limiting the amount of time they leave their home. So, I moved out of their home the day after our province’s first presumptiv­e case was announced, because I would be the potential bridge for exposure to COVID-19 for them. Simple as that. So, back to what Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” — listen to the leading advice that is in circulatio­n through the appropriat­e sources; be courteous to everyone by not hoarding supplies; practice social distancing; be there safely for people that will be and are struggling during this time. Nothing is too small, do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are. Let’s flatten the curve together and stay safe — we are all in this together. Matthew K. Babb St. John's near-spring snow, and dips in the snowpack have become openings of brown and sedge seeps, bog water working on the snow from underneath. Where dark scraps of branches have fallen on the trail, warmed by the sun, they’ve created their own small pits of melt, sinking downwards in thumb-deep hollows. Spring is coming, or the end of winter, anyway, and the sun is at least starting to literally gain some ground. My feet are loud on the crusted snow, especially since there’s little wind. The sun is impossibly bright, reflecting in from all directions. The crows follow me, swooping treetop to treetop, curious and calling their corvid insults. It’s easy to triangulat­e onto the woodcutter­s, betrayed completely by a flash of reflection from the windshield of one of the snow machines. They’re cutting selectivel­y; the trees here are small and stubby, small patches of spruce scattered on the open ground and bog in clusters like water drops on a plastic shower curtain. They’ve been cutting for some time. After I pass them, I realize that there are curling snowmobile tracks and long thin lines of the sled runners in varying stages of snowfield tracks. Like the snowmobile­s that occasional­ly leave their snaking trails over whole blocks of snow while avoiding other areas entirely, the rabbits seem to have their own favourite spots. The measuring stick for rabbits is the alders. As the alders fill in along the side of the trail, there are more and more rabbit tracks, sometimes wide, beaten-down trails that would have had teenaged me thinking about snare wire. Instead, I’m picking out a fox track, loping downhill and vanishing along a particular­ly busy rabbit run, and feeling the heat of the sun on my back through my winter coat. Counting the things that are all around me, and mostly unseen: crow, rabbit, fox, coyote (just one lone careless footprint), chickadee, junco, several sets of the repeated Morse code message of mouse feet, a cat, a flight of (maybe) siskins, gulls, a high dot that says hawk but is too far up to make out clearly. Everything here is as is always is, unchanged by world events. The rabbit tracks stop as the alder thins near the top of the hill. Now I’m up in the one-sided tamarack that are all flattened the same way on the windward side. Soon, but not soon enough for me, they’ll flesh out again in that special green of new soft needles that it’s a delight to feel between your fingertips, almost rubbery when they’re new, at the very earliest a mere fuzz of new growth. At the top, it’s a panorama in mostly snow white and ocean blue. Coming back down, I see that my boot tracks coming up are irregular and gapped, showing up in the fine loose snow before disappeari­ng when the trail’s crusted with ice. I’m almost back to the car when one of the woodcutter­s comes by with a full sled of wood. The snowmobile’s old, the smell of its exhaust a familiar two-stroke oiliness that flicks my memory backwards to years ago. I’m well off the trail, but this is the closest I’d been to a real person in hours. He’s decked out in a sap-smeared coat and gloves, helmet liner on his head, one knee on the seat. “Some day, hey?” he shouts. Some day indeed. There’s a pandemic of pandemic on the radio, so I turn it off. The highway’s clear, and my instructio­ns are simple: not even social distancing, more like antisocial distancing. Not six feet away, by any means. I’m heading for the scratch woods and rock of Conception Bay North, taking a sunny morning to escape the round and round of worse and worse, going somewhere where the social distancing is measured conservati­vely in miles. Leave the car, check on the winter house. The snow’s still halfway up the back door, frozen hard enough to walk on. One corner of the ochre bench in the yard peeks through the snow; the sheds are both barricaded. On the trail into the hills, crows and chainsaws fight each other for the right to bingo-call in the emptiness. The snow comes in many kinds. There’s a scrim of fresh new snow on top of older, rotten decay coming onto the main trail from several directions. Each one leads to the backside of a copse where they’ve harvested six, seven, eight trees, leaving the windward side of the block of trees intact to shoulder into the wind. Walking the frozen snowmobile tracks offers an unwarrante­d confidence. Step off the trail, and in some places, you’re still thigh-deep in snow. I head west, uphill on a long steady climb on a side trail that has one single snowmobile trail, older than any of the others. At first, there are not many Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire newspapers and websites across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell. wangersky@thetelegra­ — Twitter: @wangersky. SaltWire Network ......................................................................... Barbara Dean-Simmons ........................................................................................................ 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