Read: Our pandemic summer
Outside of Toronto, businesses are reopening in Ontario. My wife and I celebrated the end of quarantine by going out to dinner at a local restaurant. The tables were spaced more widely than before. Paper menus had vanished, probably never to return. Servers were masked. Otherwise, though, things seemed … almost normal. We asked the chef—an old friend—how things had gone for him and his family during the lockdown. Not too bad, he answered. Aid from the government had supported the business and kept him on the payroll. He was optimistic that school would reopen in September.
The next morning, I had a meeting at the local hotel. A checkpoint had been placed in the parking lot. My temperature was taken before I could enter the building. After my meeting, I ran some of the errands that had accumulated during our 14 days in quarantine. People wore masks in all interior spaces, and often outdoors, too. I asked a clerk at the town supermarket whether the requirement had caused any trouble. She seemed surprised by the question: “It says so right on the door.”
I picked up a case of wine at a local vineyard. The owner told me that she’d had scarcely any stop-by customers in the entire month of June. Fortunately, business was recovering so fast in July that she felt confident she would hit her sales target by the end of the season. Two full cars stopped at her tasting room during the time it took me to complete my purchase. Since she allows only four people in the room at a time, they waited outside for their turns.
North of the border, the disease is abating. Canada has steadily gained ground against the virus, even as the United States has surrendered to it.
In the first months of the year, the trajectory of the disease in Canada approximately tracked the trajectory in the United States. Then, in early summer, the two countries’ experiences began to radically diverge.
At the end of April, the United States was reporting new cases at a rate—relative to population—approximately double Canada’s. That was only 12 weeks ago. On July 22, the United States reported new cases at a rate 14 times Canada’s.
In raw terms: On July 22, the 37.5 million people of Canada recorded 543 new coronavirus cases and eight fatalities. That same day, the 328 million people of the United States reported a staggering 69,730 new cases and 1,136 deaths.
When you arrive in Canada, you instantly understand the basic cause of the disparity.
It’s not the health-care system, exactly—although that has coped better, too. A close friend in Los Angeles combatting cancer this week began to experience COVID-19-like symptoms. Her cancer treatment had to pause while she awaited first a test (a two-day delay) then the results (God knows how long). Meanwhile, my two Canadian nephews took the precaution of a COVID-19 test before coming to visit us in the country. They got the test on a walk-in basis. The results arrived a few hours later: all clear.