Canada is expecting a second wave of COVID-19 as things reopen and here's the plan
Canada is expecting a second wave of COVID-19; let's just get that out of the way first. Much like the fad of wearing Silly Bandz in 2010, the virus is — unfortunately — not going to die out anytime soon.
The good news is that Canadian health officials have a plan.
And it's good that they do, because the latest modelling from health officials shows that it might not just be a second wave; there could be multiple COVID-19 outbreaks into the autumn and winter.
First, it's important to understand exactly what a second wave of COVID-19 could look like in Canada.
Speaking on Monday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that "explosive growth is a distinct possibility" if public health measures aren't in place.
For example, if measures such as social distancing and good hand hygiene aren't observed, then early predictions show that cases could skyrocket by October.
Fortunately, Canadians are already taking a number of steps to avoid a worst-case scenario.
On top of this, Tam says that ramping up testing, contact tracing and self-isolating when sick is key in the next few weeks to prevent an immediate second wave of cases.
"We do not have an effective vaccine at this time," Tam said at a midday briefing on Monday, adding that health officials expect to see "some resurgence of cases."
"The key is to keep the number of cases small through ongoing core public health practices," she added. "We must be able to rapidly detect and isolate cases and quarantine their contacts in order to keep any resurgence small and manageable."
2/14 If we think of #COVID19 cases as small fires (and contacts like dry grass waiting to ignite), local #PublicHealth are the firefighters and case isolation, contact tracing/quarantine is like dousing with water to control the blaze.— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) June 29, 2020
The following chart illustrates exactly how necessary early detection and contact tracing actually are.
Picture the red dot on the left graph as an accountant at an office in Toronto that contracts COVID-19; if health officials detect and isolate that accountant within five days (at least 50 per cent of the time), then the epidemic stays under control.
Health officials then have to track down everyone the accountant interacted with — his family, colleagues, the person that he shared an Uber with last Saturday — and isolate them within two days. That's the blue dot on the right graph.
That way, the spread of COVID-19 stays under control.
Tam added that it's not just up to public health officials, though; as more stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed, Canadians will need to help slow the spread of the virus.
"Ultimately, the success of case finding and contact tracing is in the speed and completeness with which it is done," Tam wrote on Twitter on Monday.
"The fewer the number of cases and contacts, the faster and more completely new fires can be extinguished."
"That's where Canadians come in. By keeping [up] physical distancing and good hygiene and AVOIDING high risk exposure settings like closed spaces, crowded places and close contact situations, WE stop new fires from starting as we reopen."
Although Canada is bracing for future waves of COVID-19, researchers in Alberta are already testing vaccines on humans this summer — so there's hopefully good news on the horizon.
For now, let's continue to follow the infinite wisdom of Newfoundland Health Minister John Haggie and avoid licking shopping cart handles for the time being.
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