How to squash a pandemic: Are governments going too far or are their methods justified?

On November 11th 2022, Quebec Premier Francois Legault showed his province and our country he’d had enough. With the omicron virus spreading rapidly throughout the province, he reinstated lockdown protocols and curfews to try and curb the spread of this virus that is heading into a third year of squeezing the world in it’s tight grip. Sure, there were protests and those who broke curfew were fined or thrown in jail, but he held firm and didn’t relax any of the measures he’d put in — and he’d reinstated the tighter restrictions on New Year’s Eve to boot. Having lived in Montreal for five years, I know how much that hurt because Quebeccers know how to party, after all they embody joie de vivre.

Then, Premier Legault had another idea, no doubt arising from the reality that patients in the hospitals’ ICU’s and patients who died of Covid 19, were mostly unvaccinated, often asking for the vaccine moments before being intubated. To save lives, Legault decided that all Quebeccers who wanted to shop at liquor stores, beer stores or marijuana shops must have proof of vaccination. Vaccination rates have quadrupled since the requirement was put in place. Go figure.

And if you think that was a lot for citizens to bear, Legault announced that his government is currently working on a “health-care contribution” (a no-vax tax) that will be placed on all adult Quebec residents who refuse to get vaccinated for non-medical reasons. Not surprisingly, some citizens especially the anti-vaxers are outraged, infringement of human rights etc. but for those who have no problem getting vaccinated, well, let’s be real, they’ve thought about it and spoken about it amongst themselves. Many people in favour of vaccination were outraged when they learned the hospital care cost of Covid 19 to the taxpayer. According to a CBC news report based on data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), a COVID-19 patient needing intensive care in Canada is estimated at more than $50,000, compared with aproximately $8,400 for a patient suffering from a heart attack. The average hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient in Canada is about 15 days which is twice as long as as a patient suffering from pneumonia whose treatment cost is about $8,000. Severely ill COVID-19 patients are admitted to the ICU and are placed on ventilators and one out of every five dies in intensive care. According to CTV News, today in Canada (January12th 2022) 1000 people were hospitalized with Covid 19 while another 124 died . 13 percent of Canadias are unvaccinated and they make up 79 percent of the Covid 19 patients admitted to the ICU. We are losing the battle against this virus and people who work in health care are losing interest in their job and they are burning out and walking out for good. Some pro-vaxers say they are tired of the skeptics and that they are tired of having to undergo the same restrictions as those who have chosen to be unvaccinated. Everyone is pandemic weary. Everyone’s had enough … just like Premier Legault.

Roughly 10 per cent of adult Quebecers are unvaccinated and they represent about half of all patients in intensive care. With over 2,700 total hospitalizations in La Belle Province, with an increase of approximately 180 patients per day and over 200 people in intensive care and 62 deaths the day before the no vax tax announcement, are we really surprised the Legault government came down heavy handed? His bold actions and suggestions have made some other Premiers in the country, stroke their chins while other’s who are more conservative, or unwilling to fall through the cracking political ice beneath them as elections approach, have balked at Legault’s bravado. The Prime Minister, however, didn’t praise Quebec’s latest proposals but he didn’t shoot them down either, because like all of us, he’s mentally through with this pandemic and it’s variants and the toll it has taken on health care, ecomomics, employment, education and mental health.

Whether or not you agree with the Quebec Premier’s ideas, it’s hard not to admire a politician who has the gumption to make bold decisions and try and do something to curb the spread of Covid 19. Leaders are chosen to lead and in our society, we can vote them out later if we’ve disliked what they’ve done. Legault, like all leaders were caught off guard by this pandemic and as the world hemmorhages into a third year of covid misery, he’s trying to get to the end of it and not all citizens are on board. This pandemic has revealed in this era of widespread mis-information, conspiracy theory, skepticism and naivete, leadership has become tremendously challenging. The mis-trust of government, science and media is endangering society at large and during this pandemic it has led to the crippling of health care systems worldwide. And, so, when it comes to Legault’s ideas, and countries like Austria and Greece with fines in place for those unwilling to be vaccinated we ask ourselves, are brash government moves a step too far or are they justified?


Crocheting. After 21 years, it is back in my life, every stitch unhooking my mind from things that weigh me down in a day. Hook in right hand, yarn in left I am on automatic, chain linking, waffle stitching, blanket stitching and cross stitching, every fragment of my life back together in the hopes of making something great…something comfortable that makes others smile. Hoping to make something of a story with this life of ours that will result in something beautiful.

Photo: Daniella Barsotti

I have so many things I want to make with this yarn and hook of mine. Things that I hope will bring joy to someone else. I hope these ideas blossom into cherished items that people could look upon from time to time and remember I made it for them out of love and the best of intentions. And while creating to give is the goal, selfishly I yearn for that rhythmic, peaceful mindlessness that accompanies this craft that my younger self snickered at as being very “Carmencita and Mrs Ramirez”, aka an old lady thing. Hmm…from time to time I think youth is really wasted on the young and while I would give anything for the eyesight of my teens and twenties, I doubt that I would have had the patience for crocheting as a young person. While it is easy to learn, there is so much that can go wrong, oftentimes only revealing itself the further you get into the project. When I was young if I invested a great deal of time in something, I would only be satisfied with a positive result. Wasting time was not an option for my younger self and I would have quit rather than restart a project. For me it would have been perfection or bust. When I started crocheting at 32, I was filled with joy because I was pregnant with all the time in the world to crochet for my baby. I was happy to take all the steps necessary and I was open to making mistakes and learning from them because I wanted to make something special for my child. I made blankets, a scarf for my husband and even a little jacket and hat for my baby to wear as a matching set. Love and hope fuelled me from one project to the next and it was blissful. I put down the yarn and hook the summer after my 35th birthday. Life happened and I needed both hands and a focused mind and then the second sweet baby came, and I only happened upon my crochet tools when I was searching for something or cleaning something, always vowing to get back to it. And now I am back, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

To me crocheting is the one craft that gives you infinite chances to redeem yourself. Since my epiphany to make a hockey-watching blanket for two, I have made so many mistakes. The first mistake was at 6 feet by 2feet in when I realized I could not talk myself into thinking that I could straighten my twisting blanket. The stitches were too tight and so, after 3 weeks of work, I pulled the working yarn and unravelled it to the very first chain stitch and started again with a plan – make 12 to 14 large squares, each a little different in pattern from the next and join them together to form one big blanket for two. I am re-learning how to do this craft and I am prepared to unravel and re-do and re-work a piece because I know I have undertaken a big project that I want to see through and while this blanket for two is going to be perfectly imperfect that’s okay because it will keep my husband and me warm as we sit together watching the sport we love. It will connect us and make us happy and it will have a purpose in our lives. It just has to be good enough for us to become part of our story.

Crocheting is a timely metaphor for what is happening in my older son’s life during this pandemic. Adam is my big 6ft 2-inch blanket for two. He is a cumbersome project that would cause even the most skilled crochetier to flounder and quit. He is a beloved project that is never-ending with facets of his personality and behavior that is greater than me and everyone involved with him. He takes time, patience, hopefulness, tolerance and acceptance that can only be fuelled by deep and endless love. He requires perseverance, energy, strength, resilience and did I mention time…lots and lots of time along with an abundance of creativity and an ability to have short- and long-term foresight. If I let him, my son Adam can be a life-long project and I find myself wondering if that is best for either of us and if tying off the yarn and ending the project no matter what it looks like is what I need to do.

But I can’t give up. It’s Adam. He has always been my big, complex project. With all the success and all the mistakes I’ve made raising him and all the tears of sadness and joy I have shed over him, I am far too invested now to walk away from him, as this thing that is inside him scorches us with its fiery breath. Helping him battle this demon means advocating for him behind the scenes, I am still, on the daily, intertwined in his intricate life; still designing a platform from which he can successfully launch …. again.  I’ve stitched his world together before and it has unravelled before, but not like this. As my son reacts to the isolating restrictions of a poorly handled pandemic, his mind sinks deeper into what I see as a sort of unique madness. Nothing in his world makes sense to him, yet he can remember all the steps required to physically navigate our topsy turvy world – this world in which I promised to meet him halfway if he would just trust me, take my hand and allow himself to be a part of what it had to offer. The world has unravelled, and he is barely hanging on to its frayed ends. Confused and desperate to control the things that are happening in his life, he stitches his day together with pain, sadness, and anger. But medication, like yarn is forgiving. I am forgiving. I understand his mental illness more than ever. Autism, the most miniscule of Adam’s issues at the moment, is a neurological condition with attached comorbidities like depression, anxiety, OCD, ODD and or personality or mood disorders and distinguishing among them all to try and treat them is like trying to diffuse a bomb with a blindfold on.

 Nothing that has happened, nothing that he has done is Adam’s fault. Not his father’s, not his brother’s and though as the vessel that carried him and nurtured him, I want to blame myself, it is not my fault either. And so, I roll the unravelled tentacles of yarn back into a ball and I twist its frayed ends between damp fingertips so that it can be functional again – so that it can be manoeuvred through the fingers of my left hand and be known as work again, and hooked and linked whole by my right. This blanket for two meant for his father and me is symbolic of my unravelled son and his frayed nerves. Like the blanket, putting him back together will take time. Some days there will be great progress and there will be days where chunks will be unravelled and I will have to step away, re-group and start linking them together again, perhaps with a less fancy stitch. I have learned that the most basic of stitches are the strongest especially when you are working on a big project and once it starts coming together you see that often; they are the most beautiful. Simplicity equals purity and there is nothing more beautiful than the purest version of anything. I have crocheted eight 20 by 20 inch perfectly imperfect squares of red and white, each slightly different from the next. I have eight more to go and it could take me days, weeks or maybe even months, but I know by the end of the year, as much as I will unravel and re-work this big blanket for two, I will be able to count on the integrity of the yarn the way I count on Adam’s integrity and he counts on ours, and that of his support team. And once every fibre is stitched into place and my project becomes the blanket I envision; I will wrap it around his father and me the way we wrap our love around our son.

It will take a long time for my son to crochet his life together –much longer than it took to unravel and longer than it did the last time he came apart. But we have crocheted before and we have more experience this time and we know to expect the unexpected. We have learned that every project is different and not every stitch is the right one and that the most intricate ones take the most time and patience. There are days when I work on this blanket, I go for the most complicated stitch because I know if I am in the right mindset …if I work slowly and carefully, I can create not just a beautiful square but one with a pattern so unique, that it will be outstanding … that square will be the one that ties all the perfectly imperfect ones together. And so, I retire to my comfortable spot with my yarn and hook, so close and yet so far from my son. I designed the plan; I picked the players, and he is in the best possible hands. Over time, the effects of the pandemic will wane, and the world will be able to offer my son what it once did – his life as he knew and loved it along with all his expectations of entering adulthood. Holes will be filled and patched, walls will be rebuilt, and the sun will rise and cast aside dark clouds. He will find the balance between moving towards independence and the kind of relationship he wants with us. Twenty-one is as good a time as any to rebuild one’s life and I will simultaneously stitch this blanket together while I wait and watch in hope. My son wants and needs the space and time to find peace and wade his way through this swampy depression that is trying to drown him. I cannot be with my son physically, but I am with him in spirit and I hug him with my heart and because he dwells in my mind, I feel like I am there with him for every leap and stumble along the path to healing. I’m here…we are all here. We are his family and as long as there is breath in our bodies, we aren’t going anywhere.  And so, I sit and I crochet, stitch by stitch, every fibre… waiting, hoping and loving until he feels whole and ready to be held by us again.

Photo: Daniella Barsotti