To quote Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief, there’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.” Those lyrics from All Along the Watchtower are an accurate reflection of how many of us feel in the midst of this seemingly endless pandemic and the deluge of information that goes along with it.

For news readers and indeed, news presenters, the endless, sometimes inconsistent and ever-changing information about the pandemic is a challenge. It leaves us wondering who to believe. At The Review, we try our very best to give the community pandemic information they can use to form their own opinions and make decisions.

Our job is not always easy. In the past week, two local health agencies sent us information which gave contradictory messages. One day, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) issued a press release stating vaccination clinics may have to be delayed or cancelled due to a shortage of available staff. The next day, the EOHU issued a press release stating a mobile vaccination clinic was coming to Hawkesbury. The CISSS des Laurentides regional health authority in Québec issued a press release stating visitors were prohibited at the Lachute hospital due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The same press release said one authorized “caregiver” per patient was allowed in the hospital to visit. Is a “caregiver” just a visitor by another name? 

Local health authorities are not the only ones giving mixed messages. Last week, the federal government’s announcement on mandatory vaccination for truck drivers entering Canada changed three times in one day. First vaccination was required, then it was not, and then it was. This kind of confusion complicates work and life for thousands of people. The COVID-19 rules for Canadians to re-enter their own country by road are difficult enough to understand and the haphazard way in which the vaccination requirement for truckers was announced only complicated it. Even national Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has criticized the requirement that every person crossing the border present a recent negative COVID-19 test result. One wonders if the federal government is using the pandemic for petty nationalism and border politics rather than sound infection control measures. 

Provincially, the inconsistencies are no less apparent. For months, we have heard about the shortage of hospital beds and how COVID-19 is only worsening the problem. Yet, a January 11 announcement from the Ontario Ministry of Health stated 3,100 new beds have been added across the province since the pandemic began. In Québec, the recent announcement that proof of vaccination will be required for customers at businesses larger than 1,500 square metres seemed rather paradoxical because it will not apply to supermarkets and drug stores. Of course, everyone needs food and personal care items, but the announcement does nothing to prevent people who are more likely to be ill and contagious due to COVID-19 from exposing others to illness.  

These inconsistencies in messaging from leaders and agencies are bewildering to those of us who want to be responsible citizens and do the right thing. After nearly two full years of varying restrictions, we are weary enough. The inconsistencies also needlessly fuel the fires of conspiracy theorists and their followers, who are always looking for an opportunity to argue that the pandemic, its associated restrictions, and vaccination are part of some greater plot against a free society. We have more information available to us now than at any time in human history. However, the pandemic has shown us that not only must we be vigilant where our health is concerned. We need to have our guard up constantly to filter information and its sources.