A commentary by a retired emergency physician.
If I were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would immediately order a nation-wide stay-at-home order for the next two weeks with specific exclusions (health-care workers, getting food, picking up prescriptions etc.). Anyone violating this order would be arrested and fined and/or incarcerated.
This would immediately stop the exponential spread of this sneaky and deadly virus.
After two weeks I would implement widespread rapid testing and followup of symptomatic patients and contacts to control further spread.
It is generally under-appreciated how fast this virus spreads. It is like asking how far you would walk in the next 30 days if you took a two-foot step today, a four-foot step tomorrow, an eight-foot step on the third day, etc. The answer is eight times around the world!
Worldwide no one has been exposed to this virus previously and so there is no natural immunity. That is why, when small pox was introduced in North America, the Indigenous peoples were almost wiped out.
I just finished watching the local news where three young ladies were interviewed as they strolled along the sea-wall in White Rock engrossed in their conversations and eating their ice cream, but certainly not concerned with physical distancing.
All of us have relatives, friends, colleagues who work in health care — as nurses, doctors, pharmacists, cleaners, kitchen workers, etc. When each of us starts a two-week stay at home, do it for one of them.
The converse is that if you don’t stay at home for the next two weeks you may be racked by guilt knowing that one of these health-care workers has become seriously ill or died because you did not stay at home. Think of each of them as one of the firefighters rushing to help others during 9/11 in acts of heroism, whose lives were snuffed out by something way bigger than could be imagined.
So many authorities in Canada and around the world have done too little too late. What we see this week is already baked into the cake from the last two weeks, but what we do in the next two weeks will affect our trajectory into April. If left unchecked, we will become the new Italy.
If every Canadian stayed home for the next two weeks to binge on Netflix and used this two-week period to slow down, enjoy and interact with our loved ones and reflect on what is most important in our lives, we could save thousands of lives, billions of dollars and flatten the curve to preserve our hospital systems.
We need to act fast. If we don’t curb this, by mid-April, hospitals will be overrun. People will die in their homes and no one will pick them up, similar to the 1918 flu pandemic, where one third of the world’s population became infected and 50 million died.
As Michael Leavitt, former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary said, “Anything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything after will seem insufficient.”
Every Canadian has to stay home for two weeks starting immediately. Our future is up to each of us.