April 19 to 25, 2020
Here at home in Toronto, as well as other parts of Canada, and other countries in the world, we are looking ahead to what life may look like when we start to loosen our grip on our current self-isolation and physical separation practices.
The medical practitioners and most of our politicians are warning that there must be an abundance of caution when we take our next steps. Timing is crucial – we must not have just flattened the curve in infection rates, but we must be able to demonstrate that the curve has turned downwards in a meaningful way. Ideally, it would be best if there were no new cases, but that is too much to wish for. An infection rate that is less than 1.0 would be a big milestone.
Preparedness is another critical factor. Using our hindsite, back in late February, when COVID-19 was just making an appearance in Canada, what would we have liked to have known or had in place? The top item in my mind is the ability to rapidly test for the virus – with almost immediate results – so that any person with a positive response could be quarantined, and all contacts traced to contain any further spread of infection. Having adequate PPE available for all front-line workers is another pre-requisite before any restrictions are loosened.
It appears that our hospitals were adequately prepared for the onset of the coronavirus (having dodged any shortages in ventillators so far), but our long-term care homes and other long-term detention centres were not. The caseload emanating from care homes has been a high proportion of the overall number of cases, and this situation is still not stabilized. We need more diagnostic test results and more (and higher wages for) personal care workers before this can be brought under control. Idea: how about government funding for summer jobs for students to work at care homes?
Masks have now been acknowledged to have some value in helping to reduce transmission of the virus, so we can all expect to be required to wear masks at more locations, as they are opened.
When the first “non-essential” work-places and spaces are reopened to the public, our public health officials will need to be nimble to respond to any increases in infections. In order to minimize the second any any subsequent waves of infection, the system will need to be able to respond and isolate all hot spots and manage openings and closures on a smaller scale. We will not want to go back to the blanket physical separation restrictions.
We will all need to continue to do our part as we cautiously move ahead in the coming weeks.