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We've passed peak personal responsibilty for COVID-19, says expert

Last Updated Nov 12, 2020 at 6:29 pm MDT

CALGARY – A plea for personal responsibility amid this second wave of COVID-19 seems to be falling on deaf ears.

A sociologist penned a letter to Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney, who has tried to be the personal responsibility premier during the pandemic.

“Encouraging people to go into crisis mode at the beginning absolutely made sense,” Amy Kaler, with the University of Alberta, told CityNews.

“As epidemics, pandemics go on and on, nothing stays the same. So public messaging, health messaging, that was effective in early days has an expiry.”

In her letter, Kaler argues that Alberta is past the point of peak personal responsibility.

“You hit kind of saturation in terms of the proportion of the population that, as I said in the letter, is willing and also is able to implement these highly individualized strategies.”

Some won’t take the necessary measures on their own, no matter how much governments plead but it’s not always because we’re bad people or have stopped caring. Fatigue is setting in and others feel they can’t keep up with expectations for various reasons, including fear of losing their job.

“This is where government needs to actually show leadership,” she said.


“I mean this is what we elect them for–is to change the environments we operate in, change decision-making environments where people are now needing to trade-off virus safety against [the fear of] ‘I don’t want to lose my job’, and take those responsibilities for those changes and make it a public, a social responsibility, not just a whole lot of individual people who are doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing.”

Two strategies not tied to personal responsibility which have seen success elsewhere are collecting as much information on people and their movements as possible, with heavy investment in testing, tracing and isolating and complete lockdowns–neither of which appeal to many Canadians.

“We would all much prefer it’s just a bunch of individual people deciding to wear their masks and everything will be fine but that’s not going to work.”

The challenge for governments across the country is to confront and address.