This morning after reading the newspapers, I couldn’t stop thinking about the difficult situation in New York State and New York City. I read articles from the Ottawa Citizen and the New York Times. There are over 20,000 cases of COVID-19 in New York State with almost one half of the cases in New York City itself. The cases in New York State represent 6% of all the cases in the world.
Contrast this with the number of cases in all of Canada: 1, 470 when I looked this afternoon. The population of New York State is about 20 million, while the population of Canada is 37.6 million, to give you some sense of the scale. There have been 20 deaths from COVID-19 in Canada and 157 in New York State.
If the borders were not closed, I could get into my car and be in New York State within an hour – I could be in New York State sooner than I could be n Montreal. It is so close and yet, as they say, so far.
There is another thing I know about New York State at the border between Prescott, Ontario and Ogdensburg, New York, and that is poverty.
Prescott is not a rich town. Many of the houses are weathered and badly in need of paint. The storefronts are not glamourous, but they are well kept and operating. Cross the bridge to Ogdensburg and the first thing that greets the tourist are scenes of boarded houses, in need of more than paint. The North Country is not a prosperous part of New York State from what I’ve seen and if you Google Ogdensburg right now, you’ll find a lot of articles headed “Cheap Real Estate in Ogdensburg”.
My little sociological study is only as valid as one person’s consistent observation ad I’m driving off a bridge after US Customs, but it’s borne out be the data. Many counties in New York are much poorer than most parts of Ontario.
What makes populations vulnerable to COVID-19? Everyone is aware that increased age and pre-existing medical conditions are factors, but so is poverty. It’s heartbreaking. It’s especially heartbreaking if you are so poor that you cannot afford healthcare, as might be true in New York but not in Ontario.
It’s 5 kilometres at most from the Canadian border checkpoint to the American border checkpoint at the bridge over the St. Lawrence River. Even when you’re poor, you’re better off in Canada.
I cannot stop thinking about this difference in numbers of people sick and dying in New York. It may get bad here, but I am so grateful to be a doctor in Canada and not in the United States.
(This windmill outside of Prescott is visible from town and was the site of a battle in 1838 for control of Upper Canada. It’s an interesting story since the two forces were both Canadian: the “Family Compact” gathered from the ruling class in Upper Canada (Ontario) at the time and the “Reformers”, led by William Lyon Mackenzie. Once our current situation is over, we can all travel to the windmill, learn more about its history and have a picnic.)