As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the National Capital, the sense of worry is almost palpable – parents are worried about their children going back to school; family members continue to worry about their parents and grandparents in senior care homes; small business owners are worried about losing their businesses; and employees swing between potentially catching the virus and potentially losing their jobs should the provincial government implement another shutdown of commercial businesses.
The provincial government has thus far managed to avoid shutting businesses down again. Instead, they have reduced the number of people who can gather outside together from 100 to 25 and indoors from 50 to 10. They have also encouraged municipalities to take a zero tolerance stance against anyone who flaunts the COVID-19 rules. That means a maximum fine of $10,000 for anyone who organizes a private gathering that exceeds the limits, in addition to the current $750 fine for anyone caught violating the rules.
That’s all good and well, but before we start going overboard, we need to take a sober look at the numbers and three numbers in particular – the positivity rate for COVID 19 tests, the number of people in the hospital and the number of people in intensive care or on a respirator.
For instance, in Ottawa the positivity rate is still under three per cent and at last check there were under 15 COVID patients in the hospital and only two patients in intensive care. No one was on a respirator.
That’s all truly good news when there seems to be scant little good news out there. It means that the elderly and those people with underlying conditions who are most likely to end up in hospital are taking the necessary precautions to stay safe despite the increase in new cases.
And it’s only going to get worse. As the temperature drops and we’re forced to take cover inside to stay warm, we will be more susceptible to the bioaerosals produced by asymptomatic individuals that will get recirculated in businesses and homes kept cozy and warm by central heating units.
Instead of threatening people with five-digit fines, the government and public health officials need to do a better job warning people about the potential for infection due to the use of loose-fitting and ineffective face masks.
They also need to issue a warning about the risk of transmission in the home. If your kids are going to school, or if you have older children between the ages of 18 and 25 who are out socializing with their peers, you have an exponentially greater chance of contracting the virus than those people who don’t have children going back to school or out socializing with their peers. If you fall into the latter category, you should really be wearing a mask at home if you want to stay completely safe. But although 76 per cent of Canadians wear a mask when going outside, I doubt even one per cent wear them at home.
So what’s next. More of the same I’m afraid. More cases, more hospitalizations, more bankruptcies and more deaths. A safe, widely available vaccine can’t come soon enough.