Depending on where you get your information from, novel COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, is either the worst pandemic to strike mankind since the black plague, or simply an influenza copy cat that will disappear as quickly as it appeared, or so says Donald Trump.
The latter is just as ridiculous as the former. The coronavirus is just that, a virus, albeit a virus that is highly contagious. In less than five weeks it has spread from a city no one ever heard of in southern China to 62 different countries on six different continents.
As of 6 p.m. Monday , there were 85,000 cases reported in the world. The vast majority of which were in China. There are 89 cases in the United States and 27 in Canada. Those numbers will likely to explode exponentially over the coming weeks and months. That’s the bad news.
The good news is the death rate is less than two per cent. Although the reported death rate is two per cent, most of those deaths occurred in China where the health care system is not what it is in the United States or here in Canada. Also many of the people who died were diagnosed when the virus was in its latter stages.
The death rate for the flu is much less at 0.1 per cent, but
incidents of the flu are also much lower thanks to the flu vaccine. There is no vaccine for the coronavirus and likely won’t be for at least a year.
Do the math and you can see the problem. If 100,000 people contract the flu you can expect 100 deaths. But if 10 times that number contract the coronavirus because there is no vaccine you can expect between 1,000 and 2,000 deaths. Still pretty low unless you or a loved one are among the dearly departed.
The biggest fallout, beyond the death rate, is the impact the coronavirus will have on our health care system and seniors – our health care system because as panic over the coronavirus spreads, as it inevitably will, emergency departments and urgent care clinics will be overrun. Walk-in clinics and emergency departments are busy enough during the flu season, imagine if 10 times the number of concerned citizens show up thinking they have the coronavirus.
As for seniors and senior care facilities, they will very likely be under a lockdown for who knows how long. Like the flu virus, the death rate for seniors who contract the coronavirus is much higher than the rest of the population.
The really scary part is that no one yet knows if the coronavirus is seasonal, like the flu, or is a year-round epidemic. Seniors currently have the option of being vaccinated against the flu, there is no such protection against the coronavirus.
So what should the government be doing about it and how can the mainstream media help? First, the government must be prepared to hire additional nurses and nurse practitioners to staff temporary triage stations in order to alleviate the strain on hospitals and walk-in clinics, and second, governments at all levels and the media have a responsibility to provide accurate information to an anxious public.
– Fred Sherwin, editor
– Fred Sherwin, editor