Are we doing enough to flatten the curve? This Hamilton doctor answers your questions about COVID-19
Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid is a medical doctor and a Health Policy Researcher at McMaster University
Are we doing enough to flatten the curve? That's the million dollar question, Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid says. Efforts to social distance from one another are continuing but how much of an impact the policy is having is still unclear.
Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid is a medical doctor and a Health Policy Researcher at McMaster University. He joined CBC Radio's Metro Morning today to answer more of your questions.
'We are at a crisis point'
Q: Where do we sit in this outbreak right now?
A: I would say we are at a crisis point because we are seeing an uncertainty with what the future holds. Many of us right now, the big question is what does the next two weeks look like, if not months. And second of all, this crisis that we're in right now is really a threat to our goals of security and sustainability. Many of us are worried about jobs, about our kids going back to school, how that might look like ... those two big characteristics really put us at this crisis point.
Are we doing enough?
Q: Do you think we're doing enough now to flatten the curve, either in terms of our health care policy or public health policy or ourselves?
A: That is the million dollar question. You know we're all trying to figure out: is this working? Do we know that social distancing and all the efforts that we're putting into place, is it actually making a difference? And the simple answer is no, we still don't know. It will take time. The way we will know is, is our health system able to respond, is it not drowning. Are we able to offer appropriate care to those that actually need it in our hospitals.
Second of all, is there really an absence of exponential growth? By that we mean very simply that we're not seeing this massive spike in numbers. We're seeing that we're being able to treat them over a long period of time.
We are going to see a spike in numbers
Q: I think some people will hear the numbers 873 confirmed and presumptive [cases] across Canada right now, 258 in Ontario and say well that's not that many. But we know that there is lag time in testing, lag time in symptoms showing up. So, is there a sense of what the true infection numbers would actually look like?
A: We don't know that, but we have comparisons. We can look at other countries around the world — we can see the U.S. now has 13,000 cases and escalating. Switzerland's at 4,000. So, will we see a spike in the numbers over time? Yes, and we have to remind people that we urged Canadians to come home and by them coming home now we're seeing more and more of them come back testing positive for COVID-19. We are going to see a spike in the numbers for sure.
Can I jog on the sidewalk?
Q: Is it safe for runners to be running along the sidewalks, whereas sidewalks are only two and a half feet wide? And I'm wondering if the huffing and puffing decreases the six-feet social distance.
A: We were seeing more runners out there in Toronto recently, which is great. I think that to answer this question simply is do go out for a run or walk, avoid parks or places where there's a lot of runners or walkers. So put simply, if you are out for one and you see a mass group of people running your way, run the other direction. You want to keep as much of a distance as possible, at minimum it's two meters. The more the better. That's not to say people can't go out for walks, we're really trying to push that. You know this is not a quarantine state, it's self distancing and social distancing. It's not about you being locked up in your house.
'It's about getting as many people on board as possible'
Q: I think a lot of the anxiety for many people is just the not knowing. Is there any research available that might give us a sense of what the future holds in an outbreak like this?
A: This is one of the reasons why we're defining this to be a crisis. This fear of uncertainty of what the future looks like, it really terrifies everybody and rightly so. I mean, not knowing what you're going to do tomorrow is scary, yet alone a few weeks from here, or months. We heard Prime Minister Trudeau even reaffirm this by saying: 'I don't know how much longer this can be.' This can be a few weeks, it could be months from now, and they're preparing for months.
China reported yesterday that they had zero new cases, so hope is there. I think we're doing everything we can possibly do at this point. We need to just keep reiterating the message about social distancing, which I can understand people are getting tired of hearing, but it is important to understand that it does work. It's a policy that is effective. It's just about getting as many people on board as possible because we're still seeing some people not complying with the policy.
Will we have a similar situation to Italy?
A: Do you get worried that we're headed toward Italy's predicament?
Q: Yes, I am concerned. And I think many people are, and this is why we're urging this message loud and clear, because if we sit back and be complacent about this and say that we're not going to be like Italy we're in for a really bad turn. We are concerned that we don't want to become like Italy. Our system is an incredible one. I applaud our health care workers, our journalists, our people working in the stores. People are trying to do their part. I've been seeing amazing acts of kindness throughout the country. But here, even in Toronto, people are trying their best to help their own community. So I think we are going to get ahead of this. It's just going to take a collective effort.