Right in the centre - Controlling the fear


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

After a nearly eight month battle with COVID-19 in Manitoba, it’s time to re-evaluate where we have been, where we are now and how to proceed. At the outset, the province of Manitoba reacted fairly quickly. Nobody really knew where we were headed. There were some very scary predictions and accordingly, some strong measures were implemented. A lot of businesses suffered and some may not survive, in spite of help from both senior levels of government.

Most would agree that a major shutdown for one or two infection cycles was a good idea to slow the spread, to flatten the curve, as they say. This week, the World Health Organization has said it doesn’t recommend shutdowns except in emergency situations to flatten the curve and avoid overloading hospitals.

One of the worst hit places in North America was the state of New York, where deaths peaked at over 1,000 per day. However, since mid-July, deaths have ranged from zero to 15 per day.

It has become increasingly apparent that there are a number of factors at play in controlling C-19. The common sense stuff, such as hand washing, staying at home when you are sick, get a test if you have symptoms, socially distance whenever possible, stay in your bubble as much as you can– all those steps seem to help keep C-19 at bay. I think in New York, the shutdown and all the common sense stuff helped out, but I also believe, and I hate to use the phrase, the disease may have “run its course” in that particular state.

With the benefit of eight months of experience and statistics, it would appear that it’s time to re-evaluate the processes. The common sense stuff is what many people used to teach and follow. If my dad or mom had a bad cold, they wouldn’t come and visit. My mother knew about all the hand washing and other sanitary stuff, as she was a Typhoid survivor. So, yes, as boring as it all sounds, the little practical steps make sense.

We should not, indeed must not, do another economic shutdown. Even large gatherings should be allowed to open up again. We must protect our elderly and vulnerable, but not at the expense of letting our elderly die from loneliness, but that is a whole other topic.

Some people have died of C-19 and likely more will die from it, but let’s examine the context. In 2016-17, 10,764 people died in Manitoba. Every death is sad, but we must understand that not all deaths are tragic. When a community loses a young person, it is tragic. When someone my age, or older, dies, it is sad. There is a difference!

Of the 10,764 people who died in 2016-17, 2,874 died of circulatory issues, 2,820 of cancer, 904 from mental/behaviour issues, 893 of respiratory causes, 753 from injuries, 624 from ill-defined signs and symptoms, 571 from other, 463 from endocrine and metabolism issues, 431 from digestive issues and 431 from nervous issues.

If we take the C-19 death rate and extrapolate the current death rate over 12 months, it comes to 43 (as of Oct. 12, 2020). Again, every death is sad, but we are making a huge deal out of a disease that has a very low infection rate (only three per cent of symptomatic people test positive) and the recovery rate of those who do test positive is very high. So far, C-19 has claimed only 10 per cent of the deaths that the ninth and 10th leading cause of deaths in 2016-17 in Manitoba claimed.

Dr. Roussin has said, over and over again, that we should not fear C-19, but we have to learn how to live with it. He has been right on just about every point throughout this ordeal and he’s right on this one. The schools have been open in Manitoba, with precautions, for two infection cycles now and there aren’t many cases. Most retail places are open, with precautions. Care and caution is the key, fear is not.

Another shutdown could well result in more deaths from desperation and all its manifestations than C-19 will cause.

My mom was right, wash your hands, stay at home when you are sick, stay away from people who are sick whenever possible, cover your sneezes and coughs. Dr. Roussin would have been proud of mom.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.