I amongst many others in Squamish, probably share Christopher Elliott’s frustration that parks were closed in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. [“OPINION: BC Parks failed us when we needed them most,” published May 21.]
I wonder, however, if it’s right to blame the parks for letting us down.
Elliott characterizes the park shut-down as being arbitrary, the complete antithesis to Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice to get out and enjoy the fresh air.
Missing from that is that Dr. Henry’s advice was always that we needed to physical distance and it was in that context that the risk of transmission of the virus was small.
He speaks of the closure as a “knee jerk response to mounting community hysteria” and notes a “feverish” social media environment. But he does not recognize that, as reported in The Squamish Chief and other B.C. media, people had flocked to parks in the hundreds without regard for physical distancing, that the mayor of Squamish and other B.C. community leaders had issued calls for responsible behaviour, park closures, and stay-at-home.
And although Henry did not personally close the parks, she had herself signed the orders requiring the person responsible (presumably parks management in this case) to prohibit outdoor gatherings involving the close proximity of large groups.
I am trained in aircraft accident investigation where the objective is to avoid things going wrong again, and that means figuring out why an undesired outcome happened.
In that respect, Elliott identifies a number of misinformation issues and when he speaks of “hysteria” and “vigilante,” he points out some other undesirable outcomes of the present environment. The fact is that COVID-19 has been an evolving situation.
Our understanding of the facts has changed, so decisions two months ago don’t seem appropriate knowing what we know now. The reaction of community leaders most likely has to be taken into account not only the best-known-at-the-time science of COVID-19 but also the extreme material that is likely to appear in social media.
Regardless of how one might characterize the B.C. Parks closure decisions in March, they were one way or another in response to our own actions: the appearance, whether real or imagined, that our collective behaviour lacked responsibility or consideration of others. In that sense, maybe it’s not that the parks let us down; rather it is that we have let down the parks, albeit unintentionally.