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COVID-19 is showing how interconnected we are

As COVID-19 numbers climb, we do what matters

Trish Hennessy


Maybe the reality of COVID-19 hasn’t fully sunk in; it’s challenging to grasp the implications of this novel coronavirus.


Maybe you’re a health care professional preparing and bracing for the unpredictable.


Maybe, like me, you’re digesting news that the province you live in has declared a state of emergency, closing schools, daycares, restaurants, shops, pubs.


In my Toronto neighbourhood, things are unusually quiet. I walk by empty shop after empty shop: Closed due to COVID. It’s eerie.


As we enter unchartered territory, united in the goal of flattening that COVID-19 curve, the Upstream team is hoping that you and yours stay safe and sound.


Of course, it’s not just about us as individuals. COVID-19 is reminding us about the power of the collective. How practicing rigorous hand washing and social distancing (healthy spacing) is an act of social cohesion, to prevent viral spread.


COVID-19 is also reminding us about the power of public institutions, the value of public health systems, and the need for government leadership.


COVID-19 will test us


As students of the social determinants of health, we know that marginalized and disadvantaged people in Canada are disproportionately at higher risk: Indigenous peoples, people who are homeless, people on social assistance, incarcerated people, people who are living with disabilities or compromised immune systems, the elderly.


We know that workers who are self-employed, in precarious jobs, in the gig, retail or service sector, and temporary foreign workers might not have the ability to self-isolate or to work from home.


Government measures must be swift, nimble, and effective enough to protect everyone.


At Upstream, we’re working with a network of experts to propose measures that will help Canadians get through the worst of this public health crisis. We’ll be working to combat disinformation and to make sure everyone has access to facts.


As COVID-19 takes its toll on the economy—globally and locally—we’ll be proposing and supporting government disaster relief measures.


As we climb out of this, Canada will need to enter a reconstruction phase. Unprecedented government measures will have to be taken. We’ll be there with proposals to make Canada more resilient to future shocks—proposals informed by the social determinants of health.


These are the early days. We don’t know what any of this will look like. But, we know that anything we do to combat COVID-19 and its effects will have to be ambitious; it will have to be proportionate to the challenge ahead.


As Enda Curran writes in this Bloomberg article: “Every economic shock leaves a legacy. The deadly coronavirus will be no different.”

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Trish Hennessy is a senior communications strategist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the director of Think Upstream

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