By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The COVID-19 outbreak has reached a critical stage and every British Columbian needs to join the fight or risk the virus spreading further, says B.C. Health Minister.
“Starting now, there’s no longer any room for almost, or pretty good, or nearly enough,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “Starting now, our individual fight, our collective fight must be 100 per cent of the time, and 100 per cent of the effort, and 100 per cent right.”
People testing positive for COVID-19 in B.C. has grown from one person in mid-January, to 424 people on Mar. 21. The virus has shown up in every health authority in B.C.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie declared a public health emergency last week and has since closed schools, bars, restaurants, spas, most daycares and prohibited all large public events. She has ordered people showing symptoms, and all travellers returning to Canada, to stay home for 14 days. Anyone with compromised immune systems or physically vulnerable has been advised to self-isolate indefinitely. All non-essential workers and businesses are directed to work from home.
“We all need to do our part right now to take these measures to prevent transmission of the virus across the province,” said Henry. “It’s irrelevant what community you’re in. The risk of this virus is everywhere in British Columbia, everywhere in Canada, and… around the world.”
As of Mar. 22, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated there were nearly 300,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in 186 countries, including almost 13,000 deaths.
“Countries must test, treat and trace,” said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “If they don’t, transmission trains can continue at a low level, then resurge once physical distancing measures are lifted.”
According to the federal government website on Mar. 22, 1,030 people in Canada had tested positive after nearly 100,000 tests. Twenty Canadians had died from the virus, including 10 British Columbians, most of whom were residents of the same North Vancouver long-term care home.
To slow the spread of the virus, mass societal self-isolation and strict adherence to two-metre social distancing between individuals for at least two weeks is imperative.
“I know it’s a lot to ask of a lot of people,” said Health minister Adrian Dix. But, “the next 10 days are critical. This is our chance to “flatten the curve” of infections.
“We have to continue to aggressively do the things we’re doing to protect the population and limit the scope of the virus in BC,” said Dix. “There isn’t anything voluntary here, we all have to do this.”
Several countries have seen their hospitals and whole health care systems overwhelmed by waves of people needing critical care as their country outbreaks peaked. While an estimated 80 per cent of people who get the virus typically have mild to moderate symptoms, the elderly and people with already existing health vulnerabilities, often get much sicker, and many have died.
Currently, 27 people in B.C. who tested positive to the novel coronavirus are in hospital, including 12 in intensive care.
Last week, Dix announced the deferral of all elective surgeries, which has, so far, freed up almost 2,400 hospital beds. The move will allow health care workers to be redeployed to care for COVID-19 patients should there be a dramatic upswing in infected people needing hospital care.
“For the potential of many more cases coming,” Dix said. “We have to be more ready than we’ve ever been before… and it’s not just up to the health care system.” Everybody needs to pitch in, he said.
When asked how they’ll know the measures have gone far enough, Dix said, “We have to bend the curve. That’s what makes it enough. So whatever metaphor that people want, we need from everybody 100 per cent, and we need it now.”
See this Washington Post article for a brilliant graphic of why social distancing is effective.
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