Tag Archives: covid19

Update on Exposed

My son contacted me yesterday. Someone in the powers that be decided he was only indirectly exposed and then recalculated when he was actually potentially indirectly exposed. He was told he can come back to work Wednesday. That’s tomorrow as I write this. He must continue to check his temperature daily and each time he enters the hospital and he must report any symptoms, no matter how minor. However, he can go back to work. He was so relieved and so delighted. Each day he has been hearing from his fellow workers how busy they are, how desperately short of people they are and he is just itching to be back on the front lines where he can be doing something.

I must admit to wondering how a 14 day quarantine became a 5 day quarantine but I have heard that they are bringing staff back in after only seven days symptom free because of how short handed they are. That disturbs me a little bit because while it is true that the vast majority of people have a 5-7 day incubation and anyone who goes 7 full days with no symptoms is almost certainly not sick with the virus, it is not 100%. I can only assume someone has calculated the risk benefit ratio and decided it is worth that small risk. I sure hope it was not the same person who decided to not give out personal protective equipment until after over 100 health care workers were sent home after being exposed.

The dedication of all the health care workers in this pandemic is awe inspiring. My son is not a doctor or a nurse. He is ‘just’ a patient transporter. He is dedicated and determined to be there in the crisis. As his mother I am terrified of him being back in the thick of it but I am so very proud of him. When we praise the doctors and nurses for their dedication, which they so richly deserve, let’s not forget all the other support staff who are also risking their health and maybe even their lives, to make it possible for doctors and nurses to do their jobs. Applause for the minions.

giphy

Advertisement

Exposed

My son is a health care worker. Today he was called into the manager’s office and informed a patient he transported without proper personal protection has tested positive for COVID19. He must now self isolate for 14 days. He is one of at least seventy, count 7-0 health care workers in one hospital so affected. So why did he not have any personal protection? Someone in the great scheme of bureaucracy and management decided it was too soon to “waste” PPE and so he and the rest of his coworkers were all denied the use of PPE. It gets worse because when his 14 days are up, assuming he doesn’t die of course, he still won’t get an N95 mask because there isn’t enough.

It wasn’t like he didn’t try to get proper PPE. He talked to his manager. He talked to his union representative. He shared peer reviewed scientific papers we helped him find explaining why he and everyone else should have proper personal protection equipment. I had some old N95 for carpentry work and I offered to let him wear those. They are not medical masks but better than nothing. He was told that was not allowed.

I am angry. I am so angry I want to lash out at someone, anyone, for this towering, over powering, incompetent stupidity. All I hear are excuses

“No one could have foreseen this.”

Absolute garbage and total nonsense. This is SARS2 not SARS1. Experts in public health (including me when I was doing it) have repeatedly warned everyone of the danger of a pandemic and how we need to be prepared.

“We’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Again, absolute garbage and total nonsense. We once had huge stockpiles of N95 masks and other PPE in Canada because of SARS1. Someone decided to let these stockpiles expire and not renew them. And they didn’t bother asking anyone like me if that was a good idea because, believe me, I personally would have protested. I thought, like most Canadians concerned about such things, that we had learned our lesson from SARS1 and Canada was ready. The government told us that. The press parroted the government’s answers. Well it turns out we have no stockpile of PPE. Nor is anyone in Canada even making the N95 masks that are so critical to winning this battle. Our government has put millions, perhaps trillions into fighting the unproven probability of climate change that might happen in fifty years. Yet that same government has failed completely to prepare for a pandemic we all knew would happen because it has already happened before. Public health is somehow not shiny and bright and worthy of funding like climate change is. We now reap the consequences of what we sow. Those subsidized windmills will now twirl over the graves of our COVID19 dead.

I am angry. I am angry at the incompetence of government and the individuals who put climate change before public health. I hope, I sincerely and absolutely and utterly hope that Canadians will wake up now and vote out the short sighted morons who put us in this position while they lied to us about our pandemic preparedness.

We get the government we deserve. So, Canada, we deserve this plague and we deserve every last death, every last lost dollar, every last illness and every last inconvenience that we are now dealing with because we elected the leadership we have. It’s time we, as a nation, gives ourselves a good swift kick in the hind end. We deserve this. Then we need to get back to work fighting this war. We cannot depend on our government to help us nor to take care of us. We are all, each and every one of us, on our own. We must take care of ourselves and each other by ourselves and expect nothing from our useless government (except more taxes for preventing climate change of course.) And we Canadians will beat this thing eventually. And when we have beaten COVID19, buried our dead, cried our tears, reopened the schools and gotten on with our lives, let’s never forget the bitter lesson in our own stupidity and short sightedness that we have all just been handed.

After the great flood of Winnipeg in 1950 a lone politician named Duff Roblin paddled his canoe around the flooded city and swore he would make sure this never happened to Winnipeg again. He set about creating and building a program of flood control his detractors disparagingly called “Duff’s Ditch”. In 1997 a far worse flood happened but Winnipeg was ready because of the foresight of this one politician pushing everyone else to be prepared and all those who understood and supported his vision.

I sure hope there is another Duff Roblin out there looking at the carnage of COVID19 and deciding he (or she or gender non binary) will make sure this never ever happens to us again. And when such a person shows up, we Canadians better vote for with that person. SARS3 is coming. Not if, when. Next time, we Canadians should make sure we actually are ready for it.

Passing the Time in Isolation

In my little corner of the world where we all know our neighbours, life is not much changed. The only real thing I see is when we go to the post office to pick up our mail no one shakes hands. We stand six feet/two metres away from each and smile a lot instead. The proprietor of our local little grocery/convenience store now wears a carpenter’s mask and latex gloves. He lived in China through SARS and he saw this one coming. He stocked up on every painter’s N95 mask he could find back in early February when they were plentiful. They are suddenly like gold and scarce as 10K diamonds. He just handed his excess supply off to two Rural Municipalities worth of our local volunteer fire fighters. Our fire fighters suddenly found they have none because every last one has gone to the local hospitals. Our firefighters need them too, with grass fire season just around the corner and being first responders to car accidents and house fires.

We are under a state of emergency. Only essential services are allowed to operate. No congregations of more than ten people. Bars, gyms, rec centres, pools everything closed. They even closed our town’s curling rink a month early! To close the curling rink before they had to just gives you a measure of the depth of the emergency. Signs on the Post Office and the Store say if you have symptoms you don’t come in. The local Rural Municipality office (equivalent of the county in the USA) has locked the door and you don’t get in without a real need that can’t be handled over the telephone and only by appointment. The school is now closed for at least three weeks. The only ones commuting to work are the nurses. The local dogs are very happy. Since we are allowed to go outside as long as we keep our distance the dogs are getting many more walks than they are accustomed to. I hear the cats are happy too.

A form of rationing has been put in place that really scares me. We are only permitted to buy one month supply of our prescription drugs at a time. The government does not want us hoarding. I worry about the rumors of China cutting off our drug supply. What idiot decided all our drugs should only be made in China anyway? The stores are still reasonably well stocked though you have to get to the store early because the shelves are empty shortly after opening. Some stores are faring better than others. Walmart is having trouble keeping up. Safeway/Sobeys/IGA seems to be better off. One of my daughter-in-laws works for Safeway and she describes it as internal pandemonium with sales up 300% and their distribution network groaning under the demand but thus far keeping up. Our local store run by the man who has seen all this before has lots of toilet paper and people are driving in from the city to talk to their elderly parents and grandparents through the screen door and then go buy his toilet paper.

The town’s ne’er-do-well got out of prison early due to the virus. This person’s latest crimes consist only of nonviolent property crimes. We hear this person has no money for food because of the need to wander about town begging for money. Of course food donations are refused. Only cash is required. We are all assuming that means this person actually has food and the real problem is our social safety net refuses to feed addictions. Folks are sending this person away with nothing but their own clean conscience. My dog doesn’t like this person no one has come by my door. Good dog! Why some idiot in authority decided we would be better off with that one loose in town again I’m sure I don’t know. We have enough to cope with. Fortunately, the command to social distance gives us all a great excuse to keep away.

My husband and I are fine. We walked the dog together yesterday. He could only go about 1/8 the distance we usually go and one of our neighbour’s said he looks like he had one too many beer but considering he couldn’t even roll over twelve days ago, we’re not complaining.

Our doctor is still in isolation. He was supposed to check on us by telephone Friday but there was some glitch in his computer so we are now supposed to sit by the telephone and talk to him tomorrow. He’s apparently frantically busy even if he can’t leave his home. It’s starting to get tough on the medical people. Our plan is to do everything we can to just get out of the way of the health care system for a while.

We are passing the time writing. I started bedding plants for my garden. I am doing double just in case this rationing thing gets serious. If it’s all over I can always give away stuff to my kids and the neighbours. I am spending an inordinate amount of time in Second Life where I do both volunteer and paid counselling work. People are anxious and a lot of them don’t understand why they have to social distance and can’t go out. If I help them understand, they calm down. I talk to my kids a lot. They are on the front lines in essential services. Years ago when we dealt with great flood of ’97 and after the September 11 terrorist attacks my husband and I were crazy busy the way my children are now. I recall while slinging sand bags how an elderly lady made brownies for us to eat and she gave us encouragement and praised us. It was all she could do. It was really nice of her and I so much appreciated it at the time. Now I sit at home and cheer the youngsters on. It feels strange, but rather nice, to be one of the old-timers and let the young people handle this one. Hang in there world. This too shall pass.

Protect Nana and Papa from COVID19!

Canada now has confirmed community spread in three provinces. Being trained in epidemiology, I have not felt very confident about our government here. However I listened to the entire Sunday update from our provincial officials and I feel much better. I wish we were doing more testing but otherwise I’m happy with the reaction. Nonetheless, my husband and I are going into self isolation because of the potential risk. During this recovery period for my husband (after his second relatively minor stroke) he is especially at risk.

Also there is new and growing evidence that anti-inflammatory drugs may inhibit the immune system activity against the virus. This includes steroids like prednisone and non steroid anti inflammatories like ibuprophen and aspirin. My husband has to be on these drugs because of his medical condition. Therefore, he could well be at even more risk and it is even more important that he not be exposed. (Do Not just grab and use over the counter drugs for your fever if you suspect COVID19 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not stop your own prescribed regular meds because you need them to stay healthy! Talk to your doctor!)

My husband and I have no intention of sitting inside being scared. My husband’s condition improves each day. I have some nice outings planned for us once the weather warms up. We have lots of favourite picnic spots in the area where we can be outdoors but away from people. We can do a little bird watching and maybe some fishing. We have the internet and the telephone. I like to play in Second Life and COVID19 can’t get my avatar in there. My kids contact us daily to make sure we are fine and my neighbours do the same. We are both workaholic antisocial types anyway so we’ll be fine psychologically.

Lea and Kitty

My Second Life Avatar with one of my Pet Kitties. Avatars are immune to COVID19

I urge everyone to do their part in “flattening the curve”. This means even if you are a child at low risk for complications of COVID19 you should do everything you can to help slow the spread of pandemic. Remember, if you are young and healthy you are not protecting yourself, you are protecting your Nana and Papa and someone else’s Grandma and Grandpa.

Overall, I have been very pleased with how people are now reacting. I feel much like I did back in the flood of ’97 or post 911. People are over the shock and are coming together to fight this pandemic. We will win eventually because pandemics are part of the natural cycle of life. Our only real concern is to fight this battle in a way that minimizes casualties. My favourite person for sane clear truth in this war is Dr. John Campbell.

Proactive not Reactive

Stay Home if You’re Sick

Practice Social Distancing (Six feet/two meters between me and thee)

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases

Catch It, Cover It, Bin It (That’s British for cough into a tissue, close it up, throw it away and then wash your hands. Elbow cover is better than nothing if you don’t have a tissue.)

Elbow Bumps are Cool, Hand Shakes are Not

Flatten the Curve

Wash Your Hands

 

Coronavirus Concerns Covid 19

During my education I studied biochemistry as a young woman and then after finishing my biochemistry degree, I had to make a choice. On the one hand I could take a route that would involve training to deal with diseases like Ebola and on the other hand I could head towards human genetics. Both fields require a solid understanding of epidemiology and use of statistics to analyze results. Both also require understanding how humans think, especially when herd instinct kicks in. After much consideration I decided to do Human Genetics and not virology. I had two reason that really swayed my decision. First I had young children. People who work with outbreaks are at a higher risk because of their job. The job also requires a lot of travel and being away from home. The second reason was my asthma. My asthma is relatively mild. I can go for weeks at a time without any trouble. However if I get a cold, even a minor one, I tend to be wheezy for weeks afterward. Plus I have to avoid strange perfumes, strange food and just about everything you would require to be flying around the world dealing with outbreaks. And so, with great reluctance and much regret, I did not to pursue a career in virology. However I have been fascinated with the epidemiology of outbreaks ever since.

The novel coronavirus is now properly named severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2. People who are sick with it have a cluster of symptoms creating a disease called Covid19. There is all sorts of on line speculation about whether or not this was a bioweapon or made by humans. Personally, I think not simply because nature is always a lot better doing these things than we are plus natural viruses of this type have been occurring since before humans ever smeared a petri dish. It’s also irrelevant. Whether or not its human made, the virus is out there and it’s making people sick so who cares how it happened. We can take someone out to the firing squad after this is all over.

There is a lot we don’t know yet about this brand new virus. What we do know indicates that it is a lot more deadly than the flu. The flu kills a lot of people, mostly elderly with preexisting conditions or children with health problems like being on chemo therapy for cancer. The new virus seems to target those who are weaker in the same way but with much more ferocity. There are a couple of peculiarities. For one thing it seems that children are not being as affected. Also men die more than women. For some interesting theories as to why this, The Scientist (Katarina Zimmer Feb 24, 2020) has some neat educated guesses.

Should you worry? Well…government officials in Canada and the USA are now making cautious worried noises about how we should all be getting ready, just in case.

…I am definitely getting worried. This virus is showing all the signs of becoming a pandemic. I say that based on my own background and training even as the worry tone officials talking on TV have is kind of getting to me. Take this quote for example:

Meanwhile in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Americans should “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad”. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen,” said Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

…I think you should probably be worried too, but in a sensible way.

Those who live in hurricane country will recognize this feeling. We are at the stage where there is a hurricane out there. It is is wobbling in the general direction of where we live. It might land. It might miss us and go out to sea and dissipate. It would be a good idea to start getting ready now before any big panic just in case it does land at our homes, but we certainly shouldn’t panic yet. The best cure for panic is preparations. So how do you prepare for a pandemic?

Here is the basics of what you need to know.

  1. If the virus hits your area (and if you are in Italy and Iran it already has) the local medical system will be overwhelmed. About 20% (1 out of 5) people will need to be in hospital to have a chance to survive. That is a lot of people in hospital. By way of comparison my small town has 76 people in it. That means if the virus infected everyone in my town 15 people would need an intensive care unit. Our local hospital which serves over a hundred such small towns has four intensive beds. In a pandemic only the lucky ones of that 20% who need an intensive care unit will get into a hospital that can provide one. So you need to avoid getting sick, not depend on the local medical system helping you after you get sick. The poorer your country and worse the medical system, the more important that is. I live in Canada which is one of the best health care systems in the world. If I am worried about my health care system being able to handle this here, you should be too. Avoid this virus, don’t hope you can get treated for it.
  2. Think about your water supply. I get my water from a small independent well. If you have to depend on others for your water you may want to stockpile some.
  3. In several places the government has responded to the outbreak by simply shutting down entire sections of  the population. No one goes in, no one goes out. This means no one coming in to stock up the grocery stores and pharmacies.
  4. People will panic and people will stop showing up to work. (This is already happening in South Korea.) Be ready to take care of yourself in your home.

What can you do? What preparations should you be considering?

Pandemic Preparations

The US government has lots of good common sense advice on how to be ready for a pandemic. You don’t need a bunker ten years of food, guns and ammo and entire suits with independent air supply. You do need to have a good look at your home and ask yourself how will your family fare if the government suddenly shuts down all the roads and you are stuck in your house for two weeks to one month.

Things you can do now:

Stock up on the regular medications you would use anyway and have enough on hand so if the government does shut down your town for two weeks to a month, you don’t have to worry about finding enough of your medication to survive. Don’t buy ten years worth but do have enough on hand for a while. In Canada, most of us on regular prescriptions buy them three months at a time. So buy now if you are on your last week of meds. While you are at the pharmacy, top up your supplies of non-prescription stuff like allergy medicine, heartburn medicine, pain killers, and bandages. You don’t want to risk walking out among sick people in a pharmacy just because you didn’t have anything at home for your burning gut after you ate too much chilli.

Stock up on groceries including water. Don’t waste your money on military style emergency meals (unless you like eating those anyway.) None of this may happen and you’ll feel like an idiot if you spent a whole bunch of money on groceries you’ll never use. Think of that approaching hurricane idea. Just buy a little extra of the stuff you already use. Plus think about what you will eat if the grocery store is closed for a month. If you normally drink fresh milk, what can you use to replace that if you can’t get to the store? Maybe you want to try freezing a couple of extra jugs, just in case. If you like almond or soy milk just as much maybe get a few extra of those. Use common sense. Stuff like oatmeal keeps forever so if you normally eat oatmeal, just make sure you have enough for a month instead of a week. If you don’t normally eat oatmeal don’t buy it now. If you stick to food you will eventually eat anyway you won’t be wasting your money if this particular hurricane veers off to sea instead of landing. And don’t forget spices and sauces. You’ll want to avoid food boredom. Toilet paper and tissues don’t spoil either.

If there is a pandemic, schools and daycares will close. Plan for that. Think about entertaining the kids if you are stuck inside your house for two weeks. Now might be a good time to hide a few new toys and games in the house. (If nothing happens you can give them as gifts when birthday or holiday time comes around. ) If you work in an occupation where you know you’ll be called out to deal with this (doctor, nurse, hospital worker) plan your back up for who cares for the kids now. Again, you’re ready without wasting your money.

Don’t bother buying all kinds of medical equipment. Honestly, if there is a pandemic and you self isolate properly you won’t need it because you won’t be exposed. If you end up having to care for a mildly sick family member there are simply common sense replacements you can use. Again the US government has plenty of solid advice for coping with a pandemic. Now is the time to read it and plan. Planning prevents panic. Panic over this virus will hurt and kill a lot more people than this virus ever will.

Keep up to date. My favourite place for updates is Coronavirus Update which seems to give news faster and sooner than our local news media and they appear to check it carefully before posting. They also have lots of background details like incubation periods, mortality, probably more than you need to know.

Good luck, wherever you are in the world. Let’s hope and pray this virus fizzles out soon and we can all laugh and say our preparations were not required.