This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.
Flattening the Curve, The Benefits and Risks of Self Isolation; & How we can care for each other during this pandemic.
Cortes Health Centre Staff, Tahmeena Ali, MD—visiting doctor—and Isabelle Laplante, RN—new staff nurse— speak out about all anyone is talking about, COVID-19, and what it means for the people of Cortes Island.
Coronavirus & The COVID 19 Pandemic
The coronavirus has been floating around for a long time and many of us have already have had a form of the coronavirus as it’s what often causes the common cold, explains Dr. Ali. COVID-19 is a subtype of the coronavirus that is extremely infectious and for particular populations—the elderly or those with other medical issues—can cause serious illness and has even resulted in deaths. The mortality rate of those who have gotten it is much higher than for the common cold, especially for the elderly.
Viruses are more able to change or mutate very quickly on their own which is why it’s harder to treat viruses than bacteria, which can usually be treated with antibiotics. There is some research that there may be some antivirals that might help treat it, but as that is down the road, the emphasis has been on prevention, explains Dr. Ali.
Flattening The Curve
Flattening the curve refers to the idea of limiting exposure so that the healthcare system is able to manage the number of new serious cases of COVID-19 thereby stretching out the time period over which people get sick. It’s thought that because it is so infectious that many in the population will get it and for the young and healthy the evidence suggests that they will likely come out okay. But in order to flatten the curve, the vulnerable need to not all get sick at once.
So far on Cortes Island, there are no cases, but there are confirmed cases on Vancouver Island, none yet requiring hospitalization as of March 17—on Vancouver Island.
How can you help do your part?
Understand who should self isolate (this means not going into public or being in close contact with anyone outside the immediate family) and what it means in real life on Cortes. “Nobody wants to be patient zero who brings COVID 19 to the island,” Dr. Ali reminds us.
If you are sick, stay home. Ask for help: get a friend to shop for you or make use of the new delivery services at the Cortes Natural Food Coop, the Gorge, and Cortes Market.
If you have just come from off island, especially having travelled out of the country or to a symptom cluster area, then that means staying at home and not going yourself to the store or for coffee for two weeks. The two week mark is important, because it can take two weeks for symptoms to appear.
If you are part of an especially vulnerable population such as the elderly or the sick then stay home, ask for help, limit your exposure.
Call first. Call the clinic and discuss your symptoms before coming into the office. The clinic has been meeting people in the car, doing phone visits, and seeing some people in the office.
Nonessential travel: On one had we need to protect ourselves from a health point of view, but we also need to protect the economy, says Dr. Ali. If you can work at your occupation in a safe manner, then you should do so says the doctor. If you are a healthy mechanic and you need to travel to Campbell River for equipment, then you should do so. If you are older or health compromised, then it is better for you to get someone to do your travel for you. Travel for tourism or travel outside the country or to symptom cluster areas is discouraged and in some cases now forbidden.
When traveling, you can keep yourself healthy by remembering to:
Wash your hands frequently.
Keep social distancing.
Social distancing: everyone is being asked to socially distance when outside their household. This means staying two meters or six feet apart.
Symptoms & swabbing
Fever, cough, shortness of breath are the symptoms of COVID-19. Swabbing tests for COVID-19 are very limited in Canada right now and are only available for four groups: healthcare providers with symptoms, people coming from symptom cluster, and not applicable on Cortes: people in long term care and people who are hospitalized.
Self isolation is a tool: make it be used for good, not bad
Self isolation “is a tool” says Dr. Ali, like a knife or antibiotics. Tools can be used for good, but can also be dangerous for some if misused. On Cortes, we live apart from each other more than those in cities. People can be more susceptible here to loneliness and isolation. Dr. Ali says there are many complicated choices to be made along this but if you are from a household with children say and there are no elderly or health compromised individuals in the household than a playdate of a couple children is likely a reasonable choice for keeping children socially active and connected. Also, she reminds people there are other ways to stay connected such as FaceTime and “old-fashioned methods” such as writing letters or picking up the phone to call a neighbour. I am choosing live call-in radio shows for Folk University and some are having small, outdoor meetings with six feet (2 metres) between each other.
Limit Information To A Few Trusted Sources
Phone appointments with the mental health staff of the clinic are possible. But we all have different needs and different practices. Both of the health staff encouraged people to practice whatever it is that helps a person stay calm and grounded in their bodies: going for walks, meditation, yoga. Dr. Ali adds that this is a very good time to limit information to a few trusted news sources. I recommend our local community radio, CKTZ 89.5 FM, Cortes Currents, and the Tideline, which is getting daily updates from the Health Centre Staff.
All the good practices that a person usually does to stay health during times of intense stress and disease prevalence are good. Most Cortesians already have practices to help them stay healthy and manage lives with a fair amount of isolation and resiliency necessary. I have a number of herbal supports and vitamin supplements I take and I like long walks and talking with friends. Others are planting the best gardens they’ve ever had. Still others are being found riding their bikes again and practicing tai chi on the beach.
If you are concerned about your symptoms there is a government run number that anyone can call during business hours to help reduce the pressure on 811 and local clinics it is 1-800-COVID19.