As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has completely transformed how most of us live and interact with each other this week, it is important for all of us to adhere as best we can to what the experts are advising.  At present, there is still much we do not know about COVID-19 and how it will impact our lives in the foreseeable future. However, the Canadian government has a very good website to keep us informed about the cases and how to minimize your chances of getting the virus and what to do if you do get the virus. Leaders in the community are encouraged to visit this site as well as seek the advice from local and provincial health authorities about best practices moving forward.

The site can be found here and as of March 12, 2019, it reports there are 138 cases of people with COVID-19 in Canada.

is is slightly smaller than the 117 cases reported by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University (see figure below).

While the figure about is sobering, the number of cases in Canada remains low and at this time (March 12, 2019), the Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for the general population in Canada. But that assessment could change rapidly.

Persons most at risk for having a serious reaction to COVID-19 are persons:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • with underlying medical conditions

For many of our readers that have an underlying medical condition and/or a compromised immune system, the concerns for having a severe reaction are understandable and those persons are advised to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of coming into contact with anyone that may have the COVID-19.

To that end, the Canadian government some useful tips for persons, communities, schools, and the workplace.

Individuals

For individuals concerned about getting the virus and for those that are caring for persons who may have the virus.

For individuals, if you are sick, stay home. For those not sick and want to remain that way, practice avoiding large crowd, being in close contact with people, wash your hands regularly, and disinfect common areas that other persons often touch (countertops, toys, door handles, etc). It is highly likely that individuals will have to self quarantine or at least work from home for extended periods of time, and the government advises to stock up on essentials, fill your prescriptions, etc.

Communities

For communities, it is likely that most of Canada will follow the suggestion set out by British Columbia recently to prohibit gatherings of over 250 people for the next few weeks.

For smaller gatherings, the government has these suggestions to reduce the risk of infections:

  • avoiding shaking hands
  • practising proper hygiene
  • avoiding common sleeping areas
  • discouraging attendees from sharing food or drinks
  • increasing social distance between others (ideally to 2 metres) by:
    • broadcast events
    • offer virtual participation
    • move the venue from indoors to outdoors
  • eliminate self-serve buffet style eating at social or religious gatherings
  • encourage ill people or those with high-risk medical conditions not to attend gatherings
  • support hand hygiene by providing hand sanitizers dispensers in prominent locations
  • ensure event organizers have arrangements in place to safely isolate and transport people who become ill onsite
  • communicate clearly to attendees about the risks and directing them to our advice on reducing the spread of illness

Communities should also be planning  ahead on how to stay healthy and functional if more drastic measures are needed (i.e., shutting down public transportation, quarantining certain areas, communicating to the public, cancelling common gatherings (church services, fundraisers), etc.

Schools

Many of the above suggestions are also applicable for schools and daycares. Many schools will likely stay closed for 2 weeks following the spring break to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections from travellers. Additional common-sense suggestions by the government include:

  • Restrict access to common areas
  • Divide classes into smaller groups
  • Cancel or postpone after-school events
  • Increase desk distance between students
  • Be flexible with attendance policies for students and staff
  • Students and staff who show symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home.
  • Separate children on school busses by 2 metres where possible.
  • Cancel classes that bring students together from multiple classrooms.
  • Stagger the school schedule (lunch breaks and recess) to limit the number of students and children in attendance at one time.

Businesses

For businesses, similar common sense approaches should be employed. Many workers may be able to work remotely for the next few weeks. For those that cannot, it is advised that areas be regularly disinfected, and workers should not be in close contact with each other. Business travel should be kept to a minimum and for those traveling outside of Canada, they should self-monitor for symptoms, or more preferably, work from home for 2 weeks following the trip.

Resources

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

WHO  https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus