On the invisibility of carework

If my Facebook feed is any reflection of our city’s concerns at large (which is admittedly debatable), among the posts telling us to shop local and asking why are large chains allowed to be open when mom-and-pop shops must be closed, there is a distinct absence of stories about our dire need to improve the safety and support of our most vulnerable including our elderly and the staff that care for them during these unprecedented times-in-which-we-refuse-to-acknowledge-that-we-went-through-SARS.

I didn’t think I had to remind you all why we are taking profound and wide-ranging public health measures at this point in time, but clearly some people need it spelled out to them.

To state it as clearly as I can: we are curtailing our lives to reduce the opportunities where we may become infected by COVID-19 and then infect other people before we realize we are carrying the virus. We are trying to reduce the number of people who will die from COVID-19 infection and to reduce the number of people who will die because they cannot seek the health care they need in a timely matter, such as cancer treatments, because our healthcare staff will not have the capacity to take on anything but immediate health emergencies because their beds and emergency rooms are filled to capacity with highly infectious patients suffering from COVID-19.

(While some healthy people don’t want to curtail their lives because they know that the chance that they may die from COVID-19 is statistically very small, it is still in the best interest of healthy people to reduce the risk of infection to other people if only to potentially save their own collective-ass by helping keep hospitalized cases down, in case that they may find themselves needing urgent healthcare. )

Now I’m going to go a step further. I am going to say that we will not have a working economy unless we bring our COVID numbers down to zero. Those who are advocating that we continue to open up indoor spaces where infections are likely to spread without first making the necessary investments and efforts to protect the most vulnerable populations in our communities, have essentially decided that these COVID-19 deaths are an acceptable price to pay for the ability to eat and drink scotch with friends in a fine restaurant.

Regardless of how much of an individual you think you are — oh so separate from the rest of us sheeple — you are among us. Even if you decide to act like a traitor, you still depend on other people.

Among Us is so popular that its developers just canceled the sequel - The  Verge

Nora Loreto has been tracking the deaths of healthcare and other workers across Canada. This morning, I downloaded a copy of her spreadsheet and filtered for Ontario. As of today, 14 cleaners, personal support workers, and nurses have died from COVD-19.

[An aside: Why is this the first time I have learned that 10 taxi drivers have died from COVID-19? And why hasn’t this been mentioned in our own local conversations about public transit?]

Loreto also has the numbers to back up the cruel fact that we have completely failed to protect the elders in our communities.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons why our long-term care facilities deteriorated so quickly when COVID-19 arrived, is due to the fact that for years, we have chosen not to listen to the many, many concerns raised by those people who have working in these places. Our Long-Term Care homes were so bad there was a public inquiry report published not even six months before COVID-19 emerged.

It has been argued that the Ontario and federal government only took the conditions of our long term health care homes seriously after the armed forces were brought in. The military found conditions at the five homes where they were brought in as so bad that they LEAKED what they saw to the media. And how bad were conditions?

Now imagine how bad it might be to work in such a place.

But we don’t hear from these people. Nurses have been sounding the alarm for the years and we ignored them, then and we are ignoring them, now. Maybe, just maybe, we are not paying more attention to the conditions of LTC homes because we don’t appreciate carework. Maybe its because the employees of long-term health homes are also most likely to be women, with many being racialized women. Maybe we care more about poppies than we do about veterans.

I am still waiting for our local media to tell their stories, to give voice to their hopes, their needs, and their fears. Rather than giving regular coverage to those who gather illegally to protest public health measures, I would love to see more journalists covering where 2/3 of Ontario COVID-19 deaths have come from. I would like to see more owners of the long-term homes be held accountable for their inaction. I would love to see more Facebook posts from community members agitating for the long-term investment from the Ontario government that we need in order to keep our elderly safe and our most vulnerable safe.

Until then, women’s labour remains as invisible and unsaid as SARS.

I will leave you with two videos that have helped me better understand what needs to be done.

From October 7th, 2020:

And from yesterday:

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