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It’s a really good time to hunker down

For the past eight months or so, people living outside of British Columbia’s largest city have been less directly affected by the SARS 2 Corona Virus pandemic and its signature disease, COVID-19.

For people living in smaller cities, towns, and villages pandemic news has focussed mainly on events happening somewhere else, over the hill and far away. 

In the minds of many British Columbians, the SARS-2 Corona Virus pandemic exists as an abstraction if it exists at all.

Even now, as rates of infection and subsequent deaths rise, there are still a majority of British Columbians who remain completely untouched by COVID-19. For them, including everyone in this household, the global pandemic has seemed unreal: not totally fake, but not completely genuine either.

I’m not surprised by this.  After all, early last Spring British Columbia’s citizens responded well to admonitions from government and public health agencies to “flatten the curve”. Citizens in rural BC, places without any confirmed cases of COVID-19, accepted and mainly supported such unprecedented measures as complete closures of schools, health care facilities, and many businesses.

As a consequence, what was initially seen as a relentless upward curve of deaths as the result of COVID-19 was flattened.  

Summer arrived, the crisis eased, and things started moving back to ‘normal’.

The curve was being flattened but COVID-19 wasn’t being rubbed out. Toward the middle of July, steadily, relentlessly, COVID-19 infections started to climb again. Infections are increasing daily.

Now, well into the Fall, we hear reports of increasing numbers of infections, followed inevitably by rising numbers of fatalities days and weeks later.  The main question now is whether or not today’s number of reported new cases is once again higher than yesterday’s number.

Despite these worrisome facts, a majority of people in British Columbia still have not been directly or indirectly harmed by COVID-19, only inconvenienced.

The death toll continues to rise, but unless we or a family member is working in one of the so-called ‘front-line’ jobs, the majority of Canadians still have no first-hand proof of the pandemic, only secondary evidence, relentless media reports delivered via the internet — the same medium as cat videos, click-bait and celebrity gossip— a medium that consumers find easy to dismiss.

How many people will have to die of or with COVID-19 before Canadians change their own behaviour in a way that flattens the curve indefinitely?

The Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that number is trending upward. 

Their graphic models estimate and average daily COVID-19 death rate of 2 per day on November 16th will double to 4 per day by the middle of December, and double again to 8 per day by years’ end, a four-fold increase in daily COVID-19 deaths over the next 6 weeks.

For the BC families who lose a beloved great grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse or child over the course of the upcoming holiday period, that’ll be one hell of a Christmas present, one that no one would ever wish to give or to receive.

But remember: a projection is only a statistical guess: it’s a long boney finger pointing toward an unknown unknowable future; it’s by no means predictive.

There’s a lot that individual British Columbians can do to effect different and better outcomes.

These same projections suggest that by the middle of February, 2021, death rates will begin to moderate and possibly decline, but this too will only be achieved as the result of widespread willingness of citizens to abide by hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing protocols.  It could just as easily go in the opposite direction if people are careless.  

What better time than now to do everything they can as individuals to 1) keep themselves healthy and avoid infection, and 2) do everything they can to limit the spread of the virus now and well into 2021.

It would be a good thing for everyone to hunker down and stay put — right through the end of the year and into 2021. Doing so just might save a life, maybe your own.

By Paul David Steer

Paul David Steer lives in Midway, British Columbia.

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