Contradicting coronavirus messaging isn’t helping us

Like many Canadians, I’m gradually tuning out coronavirus updates from the government. It’s become a dizzying tennis match of contradictions and clarifications, and I can’t keep straight the rules from one day to the next.

Can I have someone at my house? Can I buy a dog toy or is a toy not essential at the pet store that’s open? Can I walk with my mom outside? I know the answers right now, but by the time you read this, I might not.

Ditto on what’s deemed an “essential” product. Yes to vodka and marijuana. No to newspapers. Oh wait, that changed, right? The government is allowing us to get news from a newspaper again? I just want to check so I’m not fined a thousand bucks.

A chief public health officer says one thing, it causes confusion, somebody higher up issues a clarification and it leaves us wondering why we listened to the first guy in the first place. It undermines the “expert.”

Over in Toronto, different authorities are stepping on each other, too. Last week, at a press conference, Toronto’s medical officer of health got overruled on previous closure orders.

“Today I revoke the orders I issued last week to keep in effect certain closures on the basis that the force of the Province’s authority supersedes mine,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa.

If a provincial government can step in and do that, why bother having someone from the city at the microphone? Who do we listen to and when? We listen to a regional medical expert until an elected official steps in? (As a society, do we trust a politician more than a doctor?)

It’s a whirlwind that results in people not following flimsy rules that change every other day. Give us one talking head that we respect and it might make things easier for everyone.

And, cut us some slack. If I miss one update, I could end up going somewhere I’m not allowed and be fined thousands of dollars. It’s unreasonable to assume that people will be tuned into every single update every day.

Plus, when you take a tone with me, lecture me and scold me – especially if I already don’t trust and respect you – do you really think I’m likely to obey your commands? I get that it’s likely in the interest of public health, but the majority of people will tell you to shove it.

We’re not your children, we’re actually your boss. Get on our good side if you want to be heard and taken seriously. Right now, it’s an us-versus-you battle and that’s not good for either side.

I’m not saying the public is right for thumbing its collective nose at the revolving door of orders, policies and mandates, but you might get better compliance if you go back to the tone you set in spring when we thought you were looking out for us.

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