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Dr. Dave Wong’s excellent op-ed (Is Nova Scotia prepared for COVID-19?) in the Cape Breton Post on March 24 illustrates how serious this pandemic is, and how lethal it can get if we are not adequately prepared. I hope everyone reads it.
Our prime minister, premiers, health ministers and public health heads have been addressing the issues daily on TV, as have the U.S. president, the head of the Centre for Disease Control, various governors, public health experts and of course, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
I am sure many readers are checking out as many sources as possible to try and get a grip on how bad the coronavirus situation can get. And that is the question. How does this thing end?
For me, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, Governor is “the model” for how a leader should talk to the people in a time of crisis.
He is the one I trust most. He tells it like it is. No talking points, no bureaucratic jargon, no motherhood statements.
He is extremely well briefed by the medical and other experts. He does not wait around to see if things are going to get worse, before acting. He has done the projections with his experts. And he has shared the numbers with the people in a clear, non-sugar-coated way.
Here in Canada, the number of cases is much lower, although the rate of increases is startling. As we watch with alarm what is transpiring next door, it is becoming pretty clear that even with our superior public health system in Canada, we are not going to escape this thing as easily as we might have imagined earlier on.
Preparedness is key of course. The federal minister of health stated that Canada has ordered 800 ventilators, while the federal public health officer estimates a need somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000. The federal minister is still waiting for the provinces to give them the number needed. Alberta appears to be a bit ahead in preparedness, having ordered more ventilators back in January when the news first came out of a new pneumonia-type coronavirus. That latter is the kind of response that helps citizens feel a bit more reassured that we are prepared.
Premier Steven McNeil, Dr. Robert Strang and the Nova Scotia Health Authority have told us what we must do to prepare. But they have not clearly told us enough about what they have done to prepare. They need to address readiness in very specific terms.
Dr. Wong, by contrast, is specific. He said we have 32 ventilators in Cape Breton. Is that enough in flu season when we have a large aging population with less immunity, many retired miners with lung disease, many cancer patients with lowered immune systems, and many other patients with compromised health?
Do our hospital staff have enough protective gear? Have more been ordered? If so how many more? Has government done projections for significant community spread? If so, what are those numbers? Recognizing that it is flu season, and many of the ventilators are already in use, do they have enough ventilators across the province for a 12-13 per cent increase in hospitalization? A coronavirus patient could be on a ventilator for three weeks or longer. Has this been factored in?
In a time of crisis, political leaders must act fast and be specific.
For example, tell us they ordered lots of masks and personal protection outfits. Tell us they have already ordered so many ventilators. Tell us how much they will increase testing, and if there are enough test kits. That is how to reduce anxiety.