COVID-19 numbers are escalating in Canada and around the world. This is no surprise. We have been warned for weeks that a “second wave” was likely to happen in the fall. We have also been repeatedly told how to minimize the extent of this surge so as to keep ourselves and our communities safe.
The dip in case numbers over the summer months gave us a false sense of security and allowed us to let down our guard. It was safer in the summer months to interact outdoors, socialize on patios and in parks and even visit family and friends or go to a movie or the gym. We were lured into thinking that things were getting back to something close to “normal”. But the virus was sleeping, not gone.
The weather has cooled. We are drawn indoors. Schools are open. Post secondary students are back. Restaurants are open for indoor dining. Our social bubbles grew over the summer and we are resisting and reluctant to scale back again even though our politicians and public health officials are advising – begging – us to do so.
Projections released this week indicate that, without changing our present behaviour, we could have 20,000 new cases a day in Canada by late December. Our current daily new case rate is about 5500 a day. We’ve been warned that If we neglect to follow the recommended paths it may be much worse by the end of December. These forecasts are startling. And unacceptable.
Why is this getting out of control? It’s human nature to look for someone or something to blame for this. Well, we can only blame ourselves. We have been told repeatedly how we must restrict our activities and social interactions, wash our hands and wear a mask when less than 2 meters from anyone but our very closest family unit.
Anyone who is not aware of the recommendations must have been living on a deserted island for the last few months. As a reminder, here they are again.
Wear a mask when not able to socially distance (2 metres) in the company of people who are not in our restricted close contact bubble (i.e. household contacts). This can apply outdoors as well as indoors. Don’t mingle face to face with folks who are not in your immediate circle.
Minimize indoor contacts as much as possible. Be aware of breaks in your comfort zone in this respect in restaurants, stores, theatres and gyms. Close contact indoors without appropriate protection (face coverings, distance, barriers) is our biggest risk.
Wash our hands frequently. This minimizes the unlikely chance that you will transfer the virus from to your face if you have touched something that has been contaminated by someone else’s sneeze or cough. Spread in this way is much less likely than droplet spread from an infected patient but is not impossible.
Don’t travel outside our community. Stay put. This will stop spread from one community to another. Dr Kieran Moore, in a recent press conference is quoted as saying the following. “Any of the major outbreaks in our area have been secondary to travel to the GTA or the other high-risk municipalities. The risk correlates to going into high-risk areas and the number of close contacts.” Stay home. Don’t have friends or relatives from out of town come to visit. This is the best way to limit inter-community spread.
Postpone indoor gatherings with family and friends this Christmas season. Look forward to a huge celebration for many reasons on July 1, instead.
Set strict limits on the number of people that you interact with face to face. This is difficult but essential.
Unfortunately, many of us seem unable or unwilling to follow these recommendations. The result is that case numbers go up, the demand on our health system increases and vulnerable people are put at risk. This ends up with the government having to impose a lockdown as has happened in Toronto and Peel districts this week. In my opinion this is something that might have been avoided if collectively we had followed the rules. But enough people do not respect those guidelines and the result is that the restrictions have to be enforced. We have a choice. We can follow the advice that our politicians and public health officials have been giving us for the past several months or we can circumvent their recommendations and end up in lockdown.
In Kingston, we have continued to be very lucky to have avoided the burgeoning numbers seen in some other cities in Ontario. Our lower caseload in the KFLA district has allowed our Public Health workers to trace and isolate potential close contacts, thereby limiting spread in the community. In some other Canadian jurisdictions, this has become unmanageable and the virus is spreading quickly. We have seen, and will see, waves of COVID-19 activity that have the potential to swing out of control if we don’t buckle down. There have been cases where the source is not clear and if this cohort increases it will mean that our risks of randomly being infected will increase if we are not extra cautious.
Recent vaccine news has been encouraging and eventually vaccination will bail us out of this situation if enough people elect to take it. Although a number of vaccines may get approved soon, it will take several months to distribute them and have them be effective. My guess is that the current wave of infection will abate somewhat but there may be a third surge in late winter. We will be needed to be extremely cautious until about May when vaccination has been introduced and the better outdoor weather is upon us once again. Please ask yourself if there is some way that you can tighten up a bit more for the sake of the your own well-being as well as that of your community. And then do it.
The next few months will be a challenge. Without widespread cooperation and discipline as we await more widespread suppression of the virus we will only prolong the pandemic and cause repercussions that will affect us either in terms of our community health or economic damage that is more severe than voluntarily complying with recommended interim personal restrictions.
If you have made it this far, here’s a bonus reward for your perseverance. This is an interesting YouTube video that talks about how the world coped with a similar pandemic 100 years ago. I found it encouraging to know that despite all the global disruption COVID-19 is causing now, there is hope to get back to a some sense of normal. Here’s to a Roaring 20’s decade!