Former federal Green Party leader and local MP Elizabeth May has self-isolated to help stop the spread of COVID-19. (Black Press Media File).

COVID-19: Former Green Party leader self-isolates, works from home, contemplates ukelele lessons

May is working remotely, calls for measure to help protect workers from economic effects of COVID-19

Local MP and former federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May has chosen to self-isolate.

Speaking to the Peninsula News Review from her home over the phone Monday morning, May said she chose to isolate herself after returning from Ottawa, where she and other parliamentarians Friday unanimously agreed to suspend parliament for five weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

She cited among other reasons, that MPs frequently travel, spend time among crowds, and work in tight physical quarters. May later said that several of her parliamentary friends attended a Toronto mining industry conference, where at least one attendee later tested positive.

“It’s terribly important that we [MPs] do not become part of a public health crisis by virtue of our day-to-day life,” she said. “For me, I just knew that I shouldn’t be around any of my neighbours and friends in Sidney until I have been self-isolated for two weeks.”

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When asked whether she weighed any specific piece of advice from public health officials, May said the most obvious one is the fact that people can carry the virus and be contagious, while being asymptomatic, that is not showing evidence of being sick. “That piece of information is really all you need to know for a person in my situation to know that I should stay away from everybody, until I am quite sure I am okay,” she said.

May, turns 66 in June, did not get a test, but said that she is feeling fine. “I’m just completely reclusive now, except that I have my husband [John Kidder, who is 72] and my dog,” she said.

Based on those ages, both May and Kidder fall into a higher risk category, so self-isolation also has an element of self-preservation. “I’m more concerned about others, frankly, but yes, of course, if either one of us became very ill and had flu-like symptoms, we would call first, make sure it’s appropriate to go [into a hospital],” she said.

This said, May said neither she nor her husband are particularly vulnerable. “Neither one of us have any underlying health issues or immunity problems, and so on,” she said. “I’m more concerned about the whole question for Canada right now.”

Canada, she said, is by no way out of the woods yet. Pointing to Italy, the situation can go off like a bomb. The more people self-isolate, the more people practice social-distancing, the better the country will be, she said. This said, restaurants and other public places drawing crowds will take a real hit, she said.

“There are a lot of things that we will miss and a lot of smaller businesses, non-profits and vulnerable workers will take an economic hit,” she said.

Using modern communication technologies, May still fills her time speaking with ministers, pressing for short-term relief measures to ensure workers stay home without suffering economic penalties. “It is all good and well to give the health advice to people like me, who have sick leave pay, to stay home,” she said. “But what about a single mom, who [is working as a waitress] and who has to keep working? We really need to make sure that we have the backs of every worker to make the public health advice stick.”

Ultimately, May predicts that Canada will find herself in a recession not unlike the one that coincided after the financial crisis of 2008, but also offered some positive news, in noting that the federal government is fiscally well-prepared.

May has also been working helping Canadians currently stuck outside Canada’s borders. Her office remains open with paid staff (but not volunteers) on site handling local business. Constituents are asked to call ahead.

When she is not working and ends up having a free moment, May said she plans to learn how to play the ukulele.

“My husband is interested in teaching me,” she said.


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