Welcome to At The End Of the Day. I’m Hannah Sung and I write this newsletter for a people-first perspective on the news. First time here? Subscribe! And if you’re enjoying this letter, pay-what-you-wish to support its growth. The goal: A podcast!
How is everyone hanging in there? For me, July was about feeling human again (I specifically savour the experience of having a glass of wine poured for me by a professional rather than my own sad pour-and-swill in a darkened kitchen at night).
August, however? The creep of September is upon us. So is the fourth wave.
As the parent of two young children, this article succinctly sums up how I feel.
Link in Further Reading below1
As writer Erin Pepler points out, this is the third school year affected by Covid. I have to calm myself by taking a hyper-personal long view (which I wrote about when I mentioned that my father, during the Korean War, was the age my children are today and that he had his education interrupted for years but still excelled academically in the long run).
What gets me so dejected with school closures is that it doesn’t have to be that way. And of course, I’m bummed when I think about how much potential educational time my seven-year-old has lost during a phase when her brain should be bursting with new experiences.
Given how great our own Toronto public school was last year with cohorting and keeping our kids safe (there were a few positive cases that cropped up but they didn’t spread), I feel hopeful. But when I see the opening up and relaxation of ministry guidelines,2 I think: WTF?
I keep flip-flopping on my feelings about back to school, between hope and total fear of the Delta variant, as my own kids are under 12 and remain unvaccinated.
Last week, ATEOD reader Miranda wrote to me, articulating all the questions that parents have and the pent-up desire to be truly heard by the government.
I had no answers for her. Part of me feels demoralized and tired, too.
But then, this week, I came across a Tweet.
What is the “born in 2009” vax issue? Here’s a quick recap:
This week in Ontario, the provincial government announced that children born in 2009, who will turn 12 this year, are eligible to be vaccinated before their birthdays. But this wasn’t always the case.
Sue Gowans, a parent in Toronto, took on the issue this summer, Tweeting and advocating with an ask that was simple, straightforward and had a potentially great reward: Let all kids born in 2009 be vaxxed before school starts.
If the issue seems niche, consider that this age group in Ontario represents tens of thousands of children who will be mingling together indoors this fall. Now multiply by that by the exponential power of the Delta variant (I leave that math to others *backs away slowly*).
In July, Sue did some rough calculations and figured that a potential 60 to 70,000 children were in the position of becoming eligible for vaccines later this calendar year. She began to publicly push for a green-light to vaccinate these kids. I called her to ask her how she did it.
We weren’t asking for something unique and never done before. Alberta had done this since mid-May. British Columbia had done this since mid-June. The Yukon and Northwest Territories were doing it.
Sue knew she wasn’t asking for something as big and complicated as the issue of decreasing class size. Or infrastructure and ventilation in school buildings. She was asking for something that already had precedent in multiple provinces across Canada but that in Ontario, until then, was not allowed.
The reason Ontario gave for pushing back was that they were obligated to follow Health Canada protocol. That struck me as a talking point because other provinces are also under Health Canada jurisdiction and they were doing this.
This week, Manitoba announced that children born in 2009 would be eligible.
It was also reported early this week that Ontario’s cabinet ministers would meet to discuss making vaccines mandatory for healthcare and education workers (there were mixed results and vaccines are not mandatory for education workers,3 which is a shame).
But Sue knew the iron was hot.
Last week, Middlesex-London Health Unit in Ontario announced it would vaccinate 11-year-olds turning 12, and Sue heard that parents were driving their kids long distances to get them vaccinated. The Middlesex-London Health Unit reversed course the very next day, however, at the request of the province.4 Asked to explain, the MLHU medical officer of health replied, “I don’t have a good explanation for that at this point, unfortunately.”
Some families who had shown up with their children were being turned away. Sue Tweeted this and she kept Tweeting and tagging people, mostly focusing the responsibility at the top.
I was Tweeting for parents to call Doug Ford’s office and they started to flood the lines.
On Tuesday, the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health announced that yes, the province will allow for 11-year-olds turning 12 this year to get vaccines. Starting immediately.
I asked Sue, without trying to be rude, what proof there is that the Ontario government heard the parents who were pushing for this change.
I have no proof other than the fact that they’ve flipped.
Supposedly this new eligibility was based on Alberta and B.C. data. That’s what’s in Ontario’s press release. But skeptically, that [data] didn’t change between Friday when they said no, and Tuesday when they said yes.
At a time when I’m juggling optimism and fear, I need stories like Sue’s to know that change is possible. The kind of change that will measurably and tangibly improve the lives of so many families. I want to know the magical, mysterious ways through which to create this change. Sue says it isn’t magic nor does anyone do it alone.
If you’re organized and you have resources – relationships with people, the digital tools — you can use them. I used knowledge gained from a year and a half of Covid tweeting, and my previous 10 to 15 years of being active in public education for my own children, to engage people to amplify this. And many people were successfully engaged through me and through their own independent efforts. So this is not my victory, this is a victory for all parents. Many, many, many parents.
It’s a great week for families with kids who can now get a first dose before school starts. And Sue’s story reminds me a lot of what I read in Al Etmanski’s book, Impact: Six Patterns To Spread Your Social Innovation, which I wrote about last fall.5
What remains frustrating is how government leaders don’t react quickly or nimbly enough, a pattern we’ve seen time and again during this pandemic, leaving parents and people to tirelessly push for what experts are calling for. Expert advice doesn’t seem to be enough for politicians when it absolutely should be.
And as Sue mentioned to me, the huge caveat is that schools aren’t safe yet. So she’s already thinking about what is her next step.
For now, though, I asked her how she deals with the exhaustion that comes from the roller coaster of pushing for what’s right.
“I took a nap yesterday,” she laughed.
I’m super inspired by her lead. Her advice is to think of a small, concrete change that would benefit many. Be organized. Have relationships which lead to support and community. And when you need it, nap.
Thank you, Sue, and big thanks to all the parents who read my newsletter. I see you out there on the sosh meeds.
And shout out to all the 2009 babies! If your kid is eligible, go get a vaccine today and please keep me posted on how your school transition goes. Just hit reply to this email.
And for my own back-to-school wish list, visit me on Instagram.
Thanks for reading,
✨✨✨ At The End Of the Day is edited by Laura Hensley ✨✨✨
TDSB announces new health and safety protocols for students’ return to school, Globe and Mail. In Toronto, the school board has announced they’re taking more precautionary measures than those set out by the province (*whispers* thank you!)
Duke, UNC see unexpected COVID-19 clusters among vaccinated students, WRAL News. I saw this shared on Twitter and it’s a reminder that Delta variant is a risk even where university students are careful, masked, outdoors and mostly vaccinated
Looking for ways to support Afghanistan and Afghan people? Here’s a list of actions that you can take and avoid. @Bushra_Ebadi on Twitter
Email #66 (The “I’m back!” Issue), Dr. Andrew Morris weekly Covid emails. I found great perspective in the “Back to school risks and risk reduction” section
Are Delta Symptoms Different? New York Times
Ontario to allow 'high-contact indoor sports' for students, won't mandate vaccines, CBC News. August 4, 2021.
A Cure For Frustration, Have a plan to create change. My newsletter from last October on Al Etmanski’s book, Impact: Six Patterns To Spread Your Social Innovation
🔴 joni x ATEOD 🔴
Use ATEOD15 for your next order of period supplies from joni. Find out why I love this company and how they’re different.
✅ Become a Patreon supporter✅
I am busily working away on multiple projects with Media Girlfriends, a podcast production company in which I am (and I’m getting used to saying this) a co-founder. My big goal with this newsletter is to build out the resources for a small team to create an ATEOD podcast! If you are a regular reader, become a pay-what-you-wish supporter of At The End Of the Day. With big thanks to all patrons, including the newest to come on board, Tori and Ming.