What Grinds Our Gears: No one should be shocked by recent coronavirus surges

It’s not breaking news that shitty conditions are hotspots for COVID outbreaks

I can’t be the only person not surprised that a fast food joint poses a health hazard. Illustration: Tiffany Chan/The Peak

By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor

During the June 15 COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that an outbreak of the novel coronavirus had been discovered in a small fast food restaurant. While no known exposure to customers occurred, she used this case as an example as to why British Columbians need to continue to remain vigilant against further viral spread. 

This announcement surprised absolutely no one. Or at least, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone, least of all anyone who’s ever had any experience with the fast food industry. What is perhaps more surprising is that it took four months for an outbreak to be reported at a fast food location in the first place.

We are now six full months into this global pandemic. As of the time of writing, over nine million cases have been reported worldwide. Almost 500,000 people have died. And yet there are still individuals and whole governments walking around like an army of shocked pikachus when cases spike “unexpectedly.”

Six US states are battling spikes of the virus following premature Memorial Day reopenings and large-scale gatherings. Russia — which for months suspiciously had very few COVID-19 cases but a ridiculous surge in pneumonia cases — and Brazil — which also downplayed the severity of coronavirus — are now also both in the grips of massive spikes in cases. 

None of this should be at all surprising, yet infuriatingly, daily news updates keep framing these natural consequences as “shocking.”

Look, there are some things that should just go without saying at this point in the pandemic. That fast food restaurants have working conditions and pay structures that all but hold the door open for coronavirus infection is one of them. But this is also true of areas with weak leadership and more concern for economic health than population health. 

Let’s stop being shocked and actually fix the damn problem.