Preparation key to preventing 2nd COVID-19 shutdown

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Of all the comments in our recent stories on the fragility of Canada’s supply chain, Linda Hasenfratz’s are perhaps the most sobering.

“I think we can’t shut down the economy for two months next time,” the CEO of Linamar Corp, said. “And of course, there will be a next time. It might not be this fall with another wave, but at some point, another pandemic is going to roll through our country and our planet.

“We need to be better prepared for that so that when it happens, we can keep working [and] keep working safely.”

Although the novel coronavrius pandemic is far from over, there’s already reflection on, and analysis of, its handling by health authorities, governments and the general public.

There’s a lot emotion tied to that as Canadians struggle to pay bills, deal with an abbreviated school year and, for those directly affected by COVID-19, cope with sickness and loss of loved ones.

Perhaps the overriding emotion is worry. It can be paralyzing. Will there be school in the fall? Will there be weddings? Will there be jobs? Will I get sick? Will I ever get to hug my friends legally? Will there be a second wave? Or a third? When? What will we do?

While that’s stewing in our brains as we cautiously head back out into a new world that’s socially colder, without hugging or shaking hands or even smiles (because they’re hidden by masks), we can’t be mired in grief. Hasenfratz is 100 per cent right: We need to figure out how to be better prepared.

The context of our recent COVID-19 coverage is automotive, but if we’ve learned anything it’s that everything is connected to everything. It’s not enough for the automotive supply chain to be prepared if governments effectively close down the economies over an outbreak that stems from community spread or a sudden influx of travel-relate cases.

Hasenfratz might have meant “we” as in the auto sector, but it’s more likely she meant “we” as a society. And that is an utterly helpless feeling because if everything is connected to everything, how can anyone ever be prepared unless everyone on the planet is prepared? And what does prepared even mean?

We as a society won’t have one answer for this question. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s a metaphor, of course, for dealing with big problems. You just have to start solving and never stop.

Our first steps have been to create less opportunity for the virus to transmit, through physical distancing, self-isolation and frequent hand washing. These methods have proved effective enough to allow strategic “reopening” of Canada, province by province.

It’s proof that while the idea of being “better prepared” might be impossible to get our heads around, simple things we can do as individuals perhaps matter most. Since everything is connected to everything, we all have to do our part — bite by bite — to lessen the effect of future outbreaks that could otherwise be devastating.

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