With the coronavirus Covid-19 creeping in greater numbers into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with the Chippewa County Health Department reporting 131 active cases and another 106 probable as of Thursday of last week, we in the Sault have to be happy that the border between our country and the U.S. remains closed.
After all, in the area covered by Algoma Public Health that is many times larger population-wise than that in Chippewa County, we had, as of this writing, only four active cases among the 47 the health agency reported.
However, I note that total jumped on the weekend, eight new cases being reported, leaving us with 12 active cases among the 55 recorded.
Still, it is a ratio we would like to see protected.
But to do so I believe there are a couple of leaks that still have to be plugged, specifically in regard to those having dual citizenship and those attending educational institutions.
They can freely travel between our two countries.
Yes, I know the rule is that they self-quarantine after each crossing but come on, in regard to students that would mean that the only time they could be out of their room at home would be to travel to and attend school.
We are talking about people in their late teens or early 20s here so it is pretty hard to imagine this happening in all cases.
Being that age once myself, I can see them sneaking into a bar on one side or the other at times to relieve the boredom.
My worry here, of course, is if they are visiting bars across the river where the virus is much more prevalent.
On Nov. 3 the Chippewa County Health Department issued a media release saying that it had identified through contact tracing the Alpha Bar, The Merch and the Savoy Bar as possible exposure sites for Covid-19.
It said anyone who visited any of these sites between the hours of 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1 should self monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the possible exposure date and should immediately quarantine themselves and seek testing if they experience fever, coughing, headache, sore throat, running nose, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell.
I believe the border has to be tightened, that the exceptions to the closure must be cut down, those who have been travelling over it freely now being forced to decide on which side of it they will remain.
There were five Canadian nurses working at War Memorial Hospital in Sault Michigan as well as working at Sault Area Hospital. They were forced to decide by their respective work places as to where they would work. They chose SAH.
This route should have already been closed by the government.
One fellow with dual citizenship who lives in Sault Michigan but works at Algoma Steel won an Ontario arbitration award allowing him to travel back and forth to work.
After consultation with Algoma Public Health as the Covid-19 pandemic came into full bloom, Algoma Steel implemented a policy requiring any employee who travelled over the border to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they were otherwise exempt from the self-isolation requirements under the regulations contained in the federal government’s Quarantine Act.
The man grieved, the union took up his case and arbitrator Norm Jesin sided with the union, ruling that the employer’s restrictions were unreasonable.
He shouldn’t have. They weren’t unreasonable. Algoma was simply protecting its workforce.
The man, who is unmarried but has two children, should have been given the choice of stepping away from Algoma Steel, possibly on a leave of absence considering the unusual circumstances brought about by the virus, or moving to this side of the river until the all-clear at the border is issued.
As it stands, he could be a constant threat to bring the virus here, considering how the virus is virtually being allowed to run rampant in the U.S. His union and his fellow workers may be OK with what is taking place, but I think we should be given assurances that he travels to work and back and only that, no shopping while he is here.
I may sound like a hard-ass on this but when I see the number of positive cases and the number of deaths occurring on a daily basis in the U.S., I think we have to do everything possible to defend our border.
Think about it. According to an NPR story, COVID cases are surging across Michigan at record levels, with 5,700 new coronavirus infections reported Thursday of last week – the highest daily tally since the pandemic hit the state in March.
And in a media release last week, the Health Department said Chippewa County was in “an extreme outbreak” of COVID-19 with seven more confirmed and eight probable cases reported Wednesday.
“Our staff has been overwhelmed with the number of positive cases and contacts associated with each positive case,” the health unit said on Facebook.
All this is happening just across the bridge from us.
The number of positive and probable cases have nearly doubled since late October.
The total number of cases in the U.S. was 10,156,968 with 243,128 deaths as of this writing.
The numbers for Canada were 258,175 cases confirmed including 10,447 deaths.
The population of the United States is 10 times that of Canada.
The number of Covid cases in the United States is 39 times that in Canada; the number of deaths is 23 times what we have.
Is it any wonder we want that border closed as tight as possible for as long as it takes?