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Up in the air
Re New WHO Guidance Calls For More Research On Airborne Transmission Of Coronavirus (July 10): A recent conundrum regarding infected aerosol droplets at the World Health Organization seems to illustrate a glaring issue: Doctors know how to treat COVID-19, but who has the best expertise to lead the fight against virus transmission?
If one has a brain tumour, does one seek a brain surgeon or a proctologist? If one has a car problem, does one go to a mechanic or a landscaper? If we know that the main means of infection is via airborne respiratory water droplets, then should we be getting advice from an immunologist, doctor, physicist or fluid dynamics engineer?
A lack of knowledge probably explains why the WHO has had such a hard time dealing with contaminated aerosol droplets, since it doesn’t fall into a neat medical silo. The science of COVID-19 transmission is still new and evolving. Wouldn’t it be best to step back and determine what disciplines are best suited to navigate these uncharted waters?
Dennis Choptiany Markham, Ont.
Everything is automatic?
Re How The Pandemic May Accelerate Job Transformation (Report on Business, July 6): To interpret Carl Frey and Michael Osborne’s study on automation, and the recent Statistics Canada report, as showing that we are entering a future without work seems to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of those papers.
Prof. Frey and Prof. Osborne say that certain occupations could be automated, not that they will be automated. Smartphones, for example, are manufactured by low-skilled labour in Asia. Even though its production surely could be fully automated, the incentives reflected in the costs of labour and capital make manual production the efficient approach. The history of technology is one of adoption of new innovations that follows incentives in this same way. It is also a story of the co-creation of new jobs and opportunities.
We can debate whether this time is different from all previous periods of innovation in terms of job destruction, but categorizing a set of occupations that could be automated should not be proof of anything in this regard.
David Green Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia
Driven to distraction
Re In This Age of Isolation, Cars Have Become The New Sanctuaries (July 2): Reporter Ian Brown is right that many people feel safer these days enclosed in a car. But for every person who has gone to a mobile zoo or drive-in movie, I wager there are a dozen city dwellers who have rediscovered the simpler – and less conflicted – joys of visiting local beaches, parks, trails and freed-up roads by bike and foot.
I say less conflicted, because most of us know the havoc we have wreaked on our neighbourhoods, green spaces, health and climate by designing cities for cars rather than people.
Michael Polanyi Toronto
Re Schools Face Daunting Challenges As They Try To Figure Out Best Way To Bring Back Students In The Fall (July 10): As a nurse practitioner and single parent with a child in emergency daycare, e-learning, in practice, has been inaccessible to my family. Come fall, hybrid or solely e-learning plans would only increase secondary COVID-19 exposures. To enhance safety, I believe schools should adopt these policies:
- Parents can choose to keep children at home.
- Teachers unable to return can take on synchronous e-learning.
- Redeploy school board staff at all levels, utilizing current skills and minimizing hiring.
- Space out students’ desks, add Plexiglas dividers, enforce the use of personal protective equipment and install handwashing stations.
- Expand teaching spaces: Explore rooms not in use, fields for temporary structures or winterized bubbles, public libraries, larger secondary schools, local universities and colleges and “outdoor classrooms.”
Safe, full-time school is a right. Any other option would discriminate against women, single parents and low-income families.
Leah Pink Toronto
Sound of silence
Re In An Unexpected Change, Standing Becomes Polarizing In A Renewed Focus On Anthems (Sports, July 6): The issue of national anthems at sporting events could be easily resolved by not performing them at all. What is the purpose besides tradition? What does an anthem have to do with Winnipeg playing Toronto in football, or New York playing Cleveland in baseball?
Anthems should only be played to recognize an international competition such as the Olympics, where nations are competing against other nations. If anthems were eliminated from domestic professional sports, there would be no issue with athletes standing, sitting, kneeling or staying in the dressing room while they were played.
Teams might as well play White Christmas before a game. It would mean the same: nothing.
Brad Hill Kingston
Re Everyone Will Win With A Compromise On Bike Lane And Car Lane In Stanley Park (July 4): There is another important aspect to the use of road space in Stanley Park: Staying with the current road usage would require an increase in either Vancouver city taxes or Park Board user fees for pools, ice rinks, fitness centres and playing fields.
By my calculations, the 30 per cent of parking eliminated in Stanley Park translates into a $1.5-million budget deficit. Plus if there isn’t sufficient parking provided for Park Board partners (restaurants, the rowing club, the aquarium, etc.) there is a portion of an additional $1-million-plus at risk.
Any tax bite will come from everyone who lives in Vancouver. From homeowners to businesses to renters, it will cost us all more.
Maureen Charron Vancouver
Whilst our daily lives are distracted by COVID-19, Stanley Park, Vancouver’s crown jewel, appears to be on the brink of losing its lustre as the Park Board grapples with whether to permanently install barriers to reduce traffic to a single lane.
Have the commissioners polled residents and businesses in the Lower Mainland before making a decision that may result in a visit to Stanley Park being just a forgotten memory? Seniors and those with disabilities, particularly, may no longer be able to enjoy the park with an ease they previously took for granted.
Dozens of Stanley Park concessionaires would also be hampered, and be less able to provide employment for hundreds of staff who have already lost considerable income due to COVID-19. Along with the recent decision to remove 30 per cent of parking spots, it appears the board has lost all compassion and business sense.
Will the taxpayers of Vancouver be required to make up any operating shortfall? If a single lane becomes reality, then Stanley Park will likely be a place that only tourists can briefly enjoy.
N. Chris Howard West Vancouver
Re Raffi Releases His Baby Beluga Album (Moment in Time, July 10): At last, a Moment in Time to help knit up our ravelled sleeve of care during this period of pandemic and other societal woes.
Let’s all take a deep breath (or first take off our masks if outside and distancing) and remember that cute little baby beluga in the deep blue sea. I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel better already.
Now, please excuse me. I have to go answer the banana phone.
T. M. Dickey Toronto
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