As Covid-19 cases continue to climb, we are left to wonder how the healthcare system will be impacted if this trend continues. The Medium spoke with Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officer of health for the Region of Peel, and Dr. Sumontra Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist with Trillium Health Partners, about their first-hand experiences dealing with the resurgence of Covid-19.
There are many different factors at play with the second wave of Covid-19. One of these factors is the re-opening of in-person classes.
While the re-opening of schools may seem to be the primary cause for the increase in Covid-19 cases, with In Saugareporting a total of 20 confirmed cases in Mississauga schools as of October 1, Dr. Lawrence Loh reveals that the opening of schools is not as big of a factor as we might think.
When asked about the role schools and in-person classes played in the recent increase of Covid-19 cases, Dr. Loh argued that people are more likely to contract the virus from family members and colleagues.
“While we have seen cases in school-aged children and school staff […] In the past two weeks, at least half of all Peel cases continue to be related to transmissions in the home, with remaining cases acquired in social settings, private gatherings, and workplaces,” said Dr.Loh.
Dr. Sumontra Chakrabarti of Trillium Health Partners echoed some of Dr. Loh’s concerns regarding the re-opening of schools.
Dr. Chakrabarti stated that it is vital to keep classrooms as spread out as possible in accordance with social distancing measures and ensure that all school children, grade four and up, are wearing masks in the classrooms.
Moreover, Dr. Chakrabarti emphasized that the most important thing we can do to protect our students is to lower community transmission. “It’s on us to decrease the number of contacts we are having […] with thanksgiving coming up; it is not the year to have a big family reunion.”
Both Dr. Loh and Dr. Chakrabarti also stressed the significance of the upcoming flu season and the complications it will bring in with the current state of Covid-19 statistics.
Dr. Loh stated that it is absolutely vital to get the flu shot this year for three critical reasons.
“[The flu shot] reduces the chances of having an illness that can be confused for Covid-19, reduces the strain on our healthcare system, reduces the chance of cross-infecting people with Covid-19, and the flu at the same time,” said Dr. Loh. “[Additionally] it also prevents outbreaks of both viruses.”
Dr. Chakrabarti stated that Covid-19 and the flu could be similar in many ways, making them “potentially identical.” Covid-19 has been generally characterized by anosmia, which is the inability to taste or smell, but anosmia can be observed among flu symptoms as well.
“If you feel unwell in any way, it is best to err on the side of caution […] and get yourself tested,” advised Dr. Chakrabarti.
However, while it is still vital for everyone to follow the precautionary Covid-19 measures, both medical professionals believe that when the second wave of Covid-19 arrives, we will be more prepared than before.
“We have our [personal protective equipment], we have our protocol for what to do with patients who are in the hospital and contagious,” stated Dr. Chakrabarti regarding how medical professionals are prepared for a second surge in case numbers.
“If there is a wave, we will be able to deal with it better,” continued Dr. Chakrabarti. “Our testing capability is way better than it was back in March. [Moreover,] we can see it happening from far off, and we can do certain things to try to mitigate that.”
Additionally, Dr. Loh explains how we are now much more knowledgeable about the virus than during its initial emergence. However, he emphasizes the importance of social solidarity in the fight against a second wave. “We need everyone to do their part,” stated Dr. Loh. “Now is not the time to be complacent.”
Dr. Loh also offered some advice on what we can all do to control the spread of Covid-19.
“Covid-19 can be controlled with a few simple rules: As cases rise, your bubble should shrink,” explained Dr. Loh. “It’s okay to interact outside of that bubble, but for all interactions following the Core Four precautions, [which include] physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and staying home if sick, will keep you safe.”
Dr. Loh also touched upon social, institutional, and personal responsibility in stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus. “Workplaces need to put precautions in place [and] hosts of social gatherings should limit numbers,” said Dr. Loh.
In facing this unprecedented crisis, we need to readjust our mode of thinking and remember that, as Dr. Loh nicely puts it, “less is more during a pandemic.”