“Are we there yet?”
There aren’t many of us who haven’t uttered these words from the back seat of the car on a long journey or fielded this question while at the wheel.
This pandemic is creating a trip-fatigue of a different kind. We are all tired of the disruption, the rules and restrictions. We are all sick of the bad news and especially the worry. There is a heaviness, everywhere. I see it in my own thoughts and hear it in the words of others.
I am sorry that this trip is nowhere near the end yet. Disrupted we are and disrupted we shall be. For a long while.
This week, the Canadian government released a startling summary of the financial strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed upon the country and the federal treasury. Unemployment is nearly 10%. The economy is forecast to shrink by 6.8%, the largest contraction since The Great Depression. The federal deficit has increased ten-fold to $343bn due the enormous weight of economic subsidies and lost tax revenue.
The economic picture in the United States is very similar in terms of both unemployment and the overall contraction of business activity – 9.8% and 6.5% respectively. But clearly the COVID-19 situation is significantly more dire and disturbing than in Canada. Significant outbreaks in the Sunbelt and the West Coast have contributed to a 72% increase in new cases over the past two weeks. Some of the major urban areas in these regions are severely imperiled. An election year has added a layer of complexity and confusion as people and politicians take sides on every aspect of COVID-19; cause, effect, response and even facts and figures.
Throughout North America, our “re-opening” is occurring at different speeds and with varying success. I am both optimistic for our progress and deeply concerned about the setbacks. Sadly, the Canada-US border will remain closed to non-essential travel well into autumn. This is an ongoing challenge for B&M. We depend on active, on-the-ground engagement and interaction of our people. Our Canadian corporate groups support the US operations. Our US people travel north for training. Just another impasse in a long list of COVID-19 effects that we must continue to work around.
As a company, we continue to gain strength in our recovery. We are very fortunate that our best is considerably better than others and that our services are so essential to so many.
I am pleased to see that many people are embracing masks as part of our new normal. Communities are mandating their use in public spaces to complement hygiene and distancing protocols. At work and at home, we must remain vigilant about all of our new routines. It is tiresome, uncomfortable and downright exhausting to keep it up but we just have to keep doing it and find a way forward as we wait for this strange trip to end.