Best to be overcautious in efforts to slow spread of COVID-19

Naturally this week’s editorial topic is on COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week and led to a state of emergency in Ontario.

Quite frankly, it’s all anyone is talking about these days, and with good reason. It’s impacted pretty well every corner of the globe in one way or another whether it be through health or finances.

Its gradual spread from country to country has led to unprecedented responses. International travel is all but grinding to a halt. Virtually every major sporting event has been cancelled for at least the next month. Ontario’s schools will be closed for an extra two weeks following the March break-at least.

Whether this proves to be an overreaction, only the benefit of 20/20 hindsight will tell. The fact is anyone tasked with making a major ruling right now has very little precedent to work with and the situation is very much fluid. A wise decision today could be proven to be an unwise one tomorrow as more information is made available. At this point, any effort that can be made to slow down the spread of the disease is a worthwhile one. Some of the lessons learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003 showed that isolation played a huge role in slowing its spread. Given all that’s gone on in other countries, it’s much better to be safe than sorry, even if the financial impacts will create a very different set of problems.

So much is still unknown about COVID-19 at this point. Some experts express optimism that the warm weather of spring will dramatically reduce the number of cases. History suggests they could be right, as respiratory illnesses typically do show a huge decline over the warmer months. In these unsettling times, there’s comfort knowing researchers are working round the clock to develop a method to slow the virus’ progress. A major breakthrough was announced on Friday when a team of researchers from Sunnybrook, McMaster University and the University of Toronto announced they had isolated the agent responsible for the outbreak. That alone won’t make the virus go away overnight, but it’s a huge step towards developing better diagnostics, treatments and ultimately, a vaccine.

Also reassuring is knowing there’s countless dedicated frontline health care professionals who have been working tirelessly, and often thanklessly, to help treat those infected with the virus. They do so bravely at risk to their own health. As easy as it is to focus on the many disappointing responses to the outbreak-panic buying, fear-mongering, racism-it’s important to remember all those out there who are exemplifying the best of humankind by doing their part to keep us all safe. For that, we should all be grateful.

-Adam Prudhomme



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