The new Covid activists
As the U.S. begins to emerge from the pandemic, survivors of Covid-19 and the loved ones of those who died from the disease are mobilizing to create a grass-roots force — and push for change.
Groups like Covid Survivors for Change are calling for actions such as authorizing disability benefits, granting paid sick leave, conducting research on long Covid, instituting a commission to investigate the pandemic and establishing a national holiday to honor victims.
Next week, scores of survivors and family members are planning to descend on Washington for “Covid Victims’ Families and Survivors Lobby Days” — a three-day event with speakers, art installations and meetings with politicians. Like breast cancer survivors who adopted the pink ribbon, Covid-19 survivor groups have adopted their own symbol — a yellow heart.
In many ways, the movement is similar to the one started by people who lost loved ones in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But Sept. 11 brought the country together, while the pandemic has torn a divided nation further apart. It is perhaps paradoxical, then, that these victims and relatives are asking that partisanship be set aside and that Covid-19 be treated like any other disease.
“Unfortunately, you have to use the political system to get anything done, but this is not really about politics,” said Kelly Keeney, 52, who said she has been sick for more than 500 days with the effects of Covid-19. “For the record, I feel ignored,” she added. “We all do.”
The call for an investigative commission has been met with silence from President Biden, who appears determined to look forward rather than rile Republicans by backing an inquiry that would focus in part on former President Trump.
A House resolution expressing support for designating March 1 as a day to memorialize the pandemic’s victims has 50 co-sponsors — all of whom are Democrats.
What survivors — and especially those who have lost loved ones — seem to want the most is to feel seen and heard.
One of them, 14-year-old Madeleine Fugate from Los Angeles, has stitched together a Covid Memorial Quilt — inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt of the 1980s — of fabric squares donated by people who lost loved ones to the virus.
She said one day she hopes to display the quilt on the National Mall.
Canada reopens to Americans
More than a year after the border between Canada and the U.S. was closed to nonessential travel, Canada announced that Americans will be allowed to enter the country beginning Aug. 9, as long as they have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before travel and present a negative test taken within 72 hours before arrival.
The move could restore some of the millions of cross-border trips between the two countries that took place every month before the pandemic.
Canada then hopes to open up to visitors from other countries beginning on Sept. 7, a date that could change depending on conditions.
For more on Canada, I spoke to Ian Austen, who covers the country for The Times.
Why is Canada reopening its borders now?
There’s been growing pressure on the government to do this. Keeping the border closed was immensely popular, politically, for a very long time — it was something that I’ve never seen before. Something like 80 percent of Canadians were fully behind it, and some wanted more restrictions. But now that the vaccination rate exceeds that of the U.S., more Canadians wanted the border open. There was also a real push from industry, including from the tourism industry, which is a very big industry and gets most of its business from Americans.
What’s the virus situation, and in particular, the situation with the Delta variant?
Well, Canada is not seeing what Britain is seeing but the Delta variant is certainly here now. Generally speaking, infection rates and hospitalizations have dropped to a very low level, with some exceptions. The effects of the vaccination rollout, which was slower than in the U.S. initially because of manufacturing issues, are now becoming apparent: All metrics have turned around pretty much everywhere.
How’s daily life in Canada?
Some provinces like Alberta have rolled things back quite a bit; in fact, they’ve lifted everything, while places like Manitoba, which has struggled with high infection rates, has remained locked down. Ontario, where I live, has opened up quite a bit. For example, it just recently allowed haircut places to reopen. But two of the barber shops I used to go to didn’t survive the pandemic, so I’m trying to find someone who will take me in.
What’s the national mood?
Because of the variants, there is still a general concern and caution in most of the country. Masks are still required in some places, and, in some areas, people are still wearing them even though they aren’t required to. I think until the vaccination rate reaches 75 or 80 percent fully vaccinated, Canadians aren’t going to feel like this is finished and over.
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What you’re doing
Before the onset of the pandemic, I sent my younger child to my parents in China for a visit, and to get some time for myself, a single mother of two. Unexpectedly, the holiday turned into a marathon of separation with no clue when it would end. Plus, I was dealing with the hardship of being a Chinese person caught between my old country and my new home. Nevertheless, I had survived an abusive marriage and thrived from there (attained two doctorates while fighting my ex through American courts), and did not get crushed this time either, until last week. In a routine video call with my child on the other side of the earth, I heard him say “mom” while facing toward my mother. I joked that in such a case, he needed to call me “sis.” Then he did. I laughed hard to hide my tears gushing from my eyes.
— Ting Wang, Greensboro, N.C.
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