It is safe to say that COVID-19 is currently laying a beating on us. A bad one.

Case counts are exploding in many of our communities in Canada and the United States. It is a grim demonstration of the exponential growth in infections that so many experts warned was inevitable without greater intervention and caution. November and December would be tough months, they said. They said it as recently as a month ago when infections, hospitalizations and deaths were all rising in tandem again. We are well into that dreaded period now, setting records for new cases on a daily basis. We’ve moved out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Within B&M, we have 22 active COVID-19 cases. Yes, twenty-two. All of these new infections have occurred during November. Almost one per day. All over the place. BC, Utah, Alberta, Manitoba, Kansas, Ontario, Missouri, Kentucky, Quebec. Scarily, B&Mer to B&Mer transmission has occurred twice in the last three weeks. In spite of all our effort and carefulness, we have still experienced 55 infections in 2020. We have been very fortunate that no employee has been or is gravely ill. But we are tempting fate. The most predictable thing about this virus is that some people get really sick. We have been very lucky.

Government restrictions have tightened in communities across Canada. We re-entered a Phase 1 lockdown here in Toronto yesterday. The rules are slightly different from the spring shutdown but many businesses including bars, restaurants, and gyms are once again closed for a month. B&M services remain essential so our work continues. Once again, we are fortunate.

Juxtaposing the ominous advance of the virus is the remarkable news on the vaccine front. With yesterday’s news of the trial success of the Oxford University collective, we now appear to have three workable vaccine solutions whose availability is imminent. And there are more in development so the cause for optimism is strong. While a widespread rollout will take months, these vaccines will be critical for protecting the most vulnerable people and front-liners such our healthcare workers during the ongoing surge of cases.

There is little doubt that vaccines will dramatically alter the trajectory of this pandemic in 2021. Precisely how the calculus of our fight against the virus will change? And when? These questions are more challenging to answer. For now, vaccines remains a promise. Until they are a readily available reality for the vast majority of people, we must continue to combat this coronavirus with the means, the protocols and knowledge we currently possess.

Vaccines frame a hopeful future but the “right-now” is very ugly. We are being overwhelmed by COVID-19. Sadly it seems that “me-first” has taken priority over “we-first” in our efforts to stem the tide of the pandemic. For every person who continues to truly sacrifice on behalf of others during 2020, there seems to be another who has gone adrift. Some have concluded they are not personally at risk so a few half-measures of Covid care are good enough.

The numbers tell the story. We clearly are not doing enough. As individuals I mean. It is easy to blame governments or health authorities but it really comes down to us. Our interest, our commitment and our action. The virus hasn’t changed. It is not more virulent. It has not gotten more contagious. It is the same. Half-measures are ineffective and foolhardy in the face of the rampant pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission that is occurring in our communities. We can and must do better.

I wish I had a more uplifting message to pass on today, on the eve of “American Thanksgiving” as we call it here in the north land. Of course, I am grateful for the ongoing vigilance of B&Mers. There is no question that we are trying hard. We have delivered for our customers and achieved remarkable business successes during a very complex and challenging time. But the cold truth of this public health crisis is that we are nowhere near the end. The virus is everywhere and I am very worried again. Please be careful and follow our well-established protocols for staying safe.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American colleagues. This 2020 version will undoubtedly be different but the spirit of this beloved tradition will remain the same. All the best.