There is a lot of information floating around the internet about the coronavirus. I’m not an authority on it, by any stretch, but I have been following it. With this post I am attempting to answer the most commonly asked questions that I’ve seen about the virus.
This is not a complete list of the things that we’ve seen over the past while, but it addresses the most commonly asked things. Please let me know if there is something that I’ve missed or have in error.
Please Stay Home
The health care system in Nova Scotia has a specific capacity. We are trying to keep the virus contained so that it does not exceed that capacity. This is why we are trying to flatten the curve. All efforts are currently working to try and “flatten the curve”. Please help us out and stay home. This will help prevent the spread of the virus within the community.
You can find the latest information and statistics at the web sites below. Please refer to these web sites as the authority on the virus. There is a lot of misinformation floating around, but these contain data from as close to the source as you can get it, although it may be a few hours old.
- HRM web site – current state of HRM services
- NS Government web site – current state and statistics
- Government of Canada web site – current state and statistics
- Johns Hopkins web site (and mobile version) – statistics
- WHO web site on the Coronavirus and the WHO dashboard
- We are under a provincial state of emergency through April 5. If you do not follow the orders of the Chief Medical Officer of Health then you can be fined and arrested. The fines are $1,000 per person per day and $7,500 per business per day. Click here for the direction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, with updates to March 25.
- There can be no social gatherings of more than 5 people.
- Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from anywhere, including from other provinces, must self-isolate for 14 days. Prior to March 21 it was not mandatory.
- Provincially — all parks and playgrounds are closed. Trails that are in provincial parks are closed. Trails that are not in provincial parks are open. Click here for the March 22 advisory from the Province.
- Municipally — all parks, playgrounds, beaches, sports fields, and many trails are closed. Click here to see the HRM web page with this information (same link as above).
- March 27 Update – Some of the trails in Lower Sackville can be used. These include the Sackville Greenway trail behind Old Sackville Road, from Sackville Drive Glendale Drive, and the Bedford Sackville Connector AT Greenway trail, starting at Lynn Court in Sackville. These have been highlighted in the map, and you can click on the map to get a larger view.
- Transit has been included as an essential service through this state of emergency. Click here for the March 26 letter from the Province.
- For the trails that are open — If you need to drive to them then they are too far away. Stay within your own neighbourhood.
Limiting the spread of the virus
I’ve been very impressed with the way that Dr Strang and the NS Government has been handling this virus. It has reached Nova Scotia now, and we currently have 21 cases. That amount will certainly increase now that travellers are arriving back home. The measures that we, as a municipal, provincial, and federal government have put in place are to try and limit the spread of the virus.
As of this writing, virtually all of the cases that we’ve seen are travellers returning home. Out of 21 positive cases so far – 19 of them are from travellers and 2 of them are from people who were in close proximity to travellers.
The measures that we have put in place are to limit the community spread of the virus, but it isn’t just up to the government. We also have a responsibility to help limit the spread of the virus through measures like:
- Self Isolation for 14 days – If you are sick, return home from a trip, or may have been near someone who may have the virus then you need to self isolate for 14 days. This means that you quarantine yourself, in your own home or somewhere else, and have absolutely no near physical contact with anyone. You should have groceries and other items delivered, so that you avoid stores. You can’t have friends over for coffee or dinner. You can not be in close contact with anyone. In some cases this means staying in a separate part of the same house. You are able to go outside, so long as you are not near people.
- Physical Distancing of at least 6 feet – When you do go out, whether you are in Self Isolation or not, you should be at least 6 feet away from any person. This reduces, dramatically, the possibility of the droplets reaching you. It also reminds us to not touch another person, since this virus also spreads on contact.
- No Social Gatherings of more than 5 people – This is to help limit the community spread. We have seen many places, around the planet, where there are big and small parties, where people are gathered together, where there are no protections taken. We are trying to limit or eliminate community spread before it starts, so that the virus doesn’t overwhelm the health care system here in Nova Scotia.
- Washing Your Hands and Not Touching Your Face – We need to wash our hands vigorously and often, using soap and warm or hot water. This will remove the virus from our hands more effectively than anything else. I saw one report that says that we touch our face, on average, about 31,000 times a day. Although I think that number is high, we certainly touch our face more often than we realize. And if we touch our face after our hands have touched something with the virus (like a door knob, a counter, or a debit machine) then we have just infected ourselves.
Our goal is to limit the virus to just those who have travelled before there has been a chance for community spread. We are going through these measures now so that we won’t have a huge problem on our hands later.
What about the Reckless Few? Who do I call?
On Sunday, March 29, the Premier thanked most of us for following the orders of the Chief Medical Officer of Health — stay out of provincial and municipal parks; no social gatherings of more than 5 people, etc. He also showed pictures of cars gathered at some of these parks, where they had ripped down tape to get through, and repeatedly said that it was a reckless few that were doing this.
If you see people at a provincial or municipal park or if you see gatherings of more than 5 people then please call the police non-emergency number and let them know.
In our area the number to call is 902-490-5020.
PLEASE DO NOT CALL 911. That is reserved for emergencies, like criminal activity, fire, and emergency health issues.
Do I have the virus?
The Government of Nova Scotia has put together a self assessment tool to help you determine if you might have the virus, and what the next steps should be. Click here to visit the web site. This assessment tool will give you a very simple survey and indicate what your next steps should be.
Please do not visit your local hospital and ask to be tested. Hospitals will quickly be overwhelmed with this and so will tell you to call 811.
It is better to use the tool above and, if it recommends calling 811 then do so.
When you call 811 you may have to leave a message. A medical practitioner will call you back for further assessment, and will determine if you should head to a testing site.
Flattening The Curve
Our health care system has limits. We only have a certain number of people, supplies, and equipment. Once any of those limits are reached we are at the capacity of our health care system to address COVID-19 and the rest of the needs of our health care system.
“Flattening The Curve” is the result of us are taking effective measures, as a society, to avoid the spread of the virus. We are limiting our in-person interactions with others, which is described above. Over time this may not reduce the total number of cases, but it will mean that our health care system is able to cope with the patient load.
The Washington Post has an excellent article showing how the virus might spread. Click here to read their article. Their article shows different simulations. The most dramatic, for me, was the significant reduction in community spread when contact between people is minimized.
A doctor has also produced a video talking about the spread of the virus, about how serious it is for all of us, and why we must help stop the spread. The video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edEr3-FnPbw
This is serious. We can’t stress that enough.
Beware of False Information
This isn’t just true of COVID-19, rather it is true about everything. We need to make sure that we look at everything with a critical eye.
- Are there miracle cures? Maybe, but not likely.
- What about Chloroquine? This is an anti-malarial drug that is currently undergoing testing for effectiveness against COVID-19. As of this writing it has not been approved by the FDA or the WHO to be used against COVID-19.
- Does a cough mean that you have the virus? Probably not, but check out the NS Government site, above, and if the self evaluation warrants it then call 811.
- Can you pass along the virus even if you show no symptoms? Yes. This means to be very careful and limit your contact with others.
- Will this virus be over quickly? Not likely. If we are diligent about self isolation, social distancing, and washing our hands then it will help.
- Does it affect seniors only? NO. The graph on the right, from the Government of Canada site, shows that many younger people have gotten infected as well.
- Do we know enough about this virus? No. We are learning more and more all the time, but the world has only seen this virus for a few months.
- Toilet paper helps, right? Gosh, no. I have absolutely no idea where this started. Fortunately it seems to have run its course. What it speaks to, though, is that we need to avoid panic.
Presumptive vs. Confirmed Cases
We have been seeing statistics about Presumptive cases and Confirmed cases, but what is the difference?
A presumptive case is one that has been tested locally, in Nova Scotia, and has come back positive. Following a positive result here, the sample is flown to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg and is tested again. A confirmed case is one that has also come back as positive following the second test in Winnipeg.
Within Nova Scotia this became unnecessary as of March 21. Dr Strang has announced that we now have the capability, in Halifax, to confirm a COVID-19 test. As such, Nova Scotia will not have “presumptive” cases in the future, although other provinces still might, and so I’m going to keep this information here for the time being.
Introduction Of The Virus
Although this virus has was identified in Dec 2019, it attracted a number of questions with articles like this: https://www.businessinsider.in/science/health/news/fighting-wuhan-coronavirus-pictures-show-how-china-built-a-1000-bed-hospital-in-10-days/articleshow/73758306.cms, which was published on January 30, a little less than 2 months ago.
Since then it has more and more become a part of our conversations and had a direct impact on our daily lives.
China built a total of 16 of these hospitals and, over the past couple of months, has also done a good job of getting control of the virus. It was recently reported that China has finally seen a day where there are no new cases; where all of the cases have been discharged from these temporary hospitals and, as this article from March 11 states, all 16 of the temporary hospitals have closed.
What could make the data better?
We are seeing the number of cases in total, the number of deaths in total, and the number of new cases. These are shown on a per country basis.
There are three immediate problems with these figures:
- They should be focusing on the number of new cases first, and have the number of cases in total as a distant second. The number of cases in total will continue to rise, and the graphs will continue to show alarming information.
- They should be showing the trends over time, not in total. How does the number of new cases, today, compare to the number of new cases yesterday? This is the most important metric to see. If there were 10 new cases yesterday but there are only 5 today then it’s coming under control.
- The cases are shown on a per country basis, not a per population basis. If Canada has 100 cases in total and the US has 500 cases in total then which country is in worst shape? Canada. The US has 10 times as many people as we do, so for us to be in the same state the US would have to have 1,000 cases. (As of today the US has over 20 times the number of cases that Canada has, so we’re actually in better shape than they are.)
The graph here shows the number of cases per date, and is far more helpful. This is still an alarming statistic, but it is far better than showing the number of cases in total. With this graph we can see that the number of new cases, globally, continues to rise sharply, on a day by day basis. At this point, globally, this virus shows no signs of slowing down.