Surviving COVID-19 in British Columbia, Canada … it isn’t easy but dutiful
“We must share info, learn from each other and appreciate that we are all in this together.” Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer for British Columbia.
So, the world is helplessly afflicted and suffering another once-in-a-century pandemic infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus called COVID-19. Its spiked image has infiltrated our psyche.
We all know how it spreads
The COVID-19 virus knows no pity, no language, no border, takes no sides, with only one purpose to cause respiratory infection in the lungs by coughing, exhaling, breathing in or touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose and mouth. Most people experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatment; but others die, of all ages, sometimes quickly, sometimes following intubation for weeks if unable to breathe on their own. This means that a tube is forced into their windpipe and connected to a ventilator to pump extra air in and out of their lungs.
COVID -19 comes to British Columbia along with Dr. Bonnie Henry
Our introduction was at the end of March this year when COVID-19 became a household word causing a mad scramble to make sure families had enough toilet paper to hold out for a month or two along with a case of hand-sanitizers. There was no way to predict it, but it wouldn’t take away the luxury of toilet paper.
In quick time, the provincial government appointed a task force to deal with this ongoing world emergency. Dr. Bonnie Henry was appointed as BC’s lead doctor whom many people consider to be our female Dr. Fauci. Her years of experience preceded her as a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia, a specialist in public health and preventive medicine who worked internationally with WHO/UNICEF for polio eradication and Ebola control in Uganda.
Like clockwork, every weekday morning, along with BC’s Minister of Health, she was a trusted advisor who updated what was happening … recent outbreaks, follow ups, and new strategies always ending with “take care, stay safe and be kind to each other.” In her calm, quiet voice, she was our safety call for common sense and responsibility, mourning each death as if she knew them, sometimes crying at the inhumanity of it all. Most people credit her for keeping the lowest outbreaks and cases across Canada.
It isn’t easy but dutiful
Like everywhere else, our local economy took a hit. There was closure of gyms; salons and restaurants had to have proper spacing for less customers. All of sudden, markings appeared in all stores to follow steps and stand 6 feet apart whether shopping at Walmart’s, grocery stores, getting gas or going to the bank. Plastic windows separated all cashiers from customers. Wearing a mask became as natural as brushing your hair.
Elderly citizens of old age homes were the most vulnerable where small outbreaks happened along with care-aides, but a lock down and quarantine were quickly passed. This was personally distressing to me because I wasn’t able to visit my brother since the end of March other than to talk on the phone or Zoom calls. Dr. Henry did allow one designated family member to visit with an appointment, but his daughter had precedence, not a sister. This management prevented any cases in the residence but broke many hearts of people who particularly needed to be shown love.
Our schools opened within new regulations. Our theater was recently redesigned with new seating plans. Restaurants have adapted seating or take-out. Salons required masks and larger spaces. Gyms are opened with restrictions. Home parties were reported, and owners fined. We just had a provincial election with all distancing protocols in place.
With coming winter, more indoor time and rising cases, comes a warning from Dr. Henry that “we are in the danger zone and need to take action to make it OK.” Her last report stated that the latest death recorded was of a woman in her 80's who attended a small birthday party of less than 10 people in a private home where the majority of people became infected with COVID-19.
She explains, “It doesn’t spread in the same way that we see with influenza, where it sort of goes through a whole population and everybody gets sick at once. It’s really about clusters of cases.”
So, this Monday she announced that gatherings were now limited to people in an immediate household, plus their so-called “safe six” guests.
This kind of reminder hits again and again that this unseen, ever circulating, non-differentiating virus is a dangerous enemy invasion and must be dealt with at an individual level whether we like it or not.
Our statistics, perhaps, show any success if it is possible. Our province has 5.07 million people with the largest city, Vancouver, of 675,000 people. There have been 14,381 cases reported since the pandemic began, 11,670 have recovered and 263 people have died.
My more rural area reported 2 active cases, no deaths.
But how much can we limit for how long?
Definitely we all long for the return to some normal life, to socialize, go to a birthday party, share a beer, have a normal conversation shoulder to shoulder, or hug a friend.
However, society cannot function as a single individual unit when the invisible virus is in the air attacking everyone.
“One quick little get together” can overturn public heath intervention. Social distancing is not just about individuals but society working together in unison.
Sometimes, as a population we can’t see the result for a long time, but personal choices matter. In fact, it will probably be by the collection of individual choices that support community spirit that will make the biggest difference in overcoming this siege in the short run. Medical technology may help in the long run.
This virus is unforgiving to choices outside the rules.
So we limit until we don’t have to.
PS: Wishing all people around the world to “take care, be safe and be kind to each other.”