To panic or not to panic

A couple of days ago I suggested to our photo club that we cancel our monthly meeting in the home of one of our members. We usually meet in a small living room and look at slides and discuss them and photography in general.

One of our members suggested we were all overreacting and panicking. My fellow photographer said we should look at both sides.  He suggested we watch a video with Judge Jeanine.  So I watched it and listened to her rant in her typical fashion about those stupid liberals criticizing President Trump and panicking over a flu! It’s just a flu she said.

I agree that most questions have two sides.He said he intended to carry on his life as usual. We need to look at both sides carefully. Important public questions should be based on the best available evidence. Not comments by pundits. And there are many of them on both sides of many questions like this one.

I would suggest that for complex public health questions we consult with experts in the health field, instead of retired judges (or lawyers for that matter.) Trump has some good ones in his camp and we should respect what they say.

And the experts suggest we should be very careful because coronavirus is a very serious health concern. They do not urge panic and they are not overreacting. They have warned that the rate of infection will likely jump sharply in the very near future and they have said “all Americans” (and we should include Canadian in that) should take serious measures to contain the spread and if we do that we have a chance of minimizing the harm. Doing nothing and carrying on as we have always done is not the right approach. If we do that we run a serious risk of making things worse. Much worse.

Trump’s experts have recommend that we keep safe social distances from each other.  Our groups should be small. I think if our entire photo club came to our leader’s home that would not qualify as a safe social distance. It would be dangerous–for someone. If the virus was passed on to someone young and healthy, like our youngest member, for example, he might be safe, but he could pass it on to someone who is not. Like his grandparents or even a stranger he encounters.

Some points made by Judge Jeanine are correct. Most importantly panic is not helpful. I did not advocate panicking. I do advocate that all of us take reasonable steps to protect vulnerable people, including old people with underlying health conditions. I know a  few people like that. The coronavirus can be very serious for them. Young healthy have much less chance of getting seriously sick from it, but they should not take unnecessary chances that risk harm to others. If they just harm themselves I wouldn’t care what they do.

Another expert is Dr. Theresa Tam who has been strongly recommended to me. She is Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer and is a pediatrics specialist in infectious diseases. This is what the World Health organization says about her:

“Dr. Theresa Tam was named Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer on June 26, 2017. She is a physician with expertise in immunization, infectious disease, emergency preparedness and global health security. Dr. Tam obtained her medical degree from the University of Nottingham in the U.K. She completed her paediatric residency at the University of Alberta and her fellowship in paediatric infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and has over 55 peer-reviewed journal publications in public health. She is also a graduate of the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program.

Dr. Tam has held several senior leadership positions at the Public Health Agency of Canada, including as the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer and the Assistant Deputy Minister for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. During her 20 years in public health, she provided technical expertise and leadership on new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance, enhance immunization programs, strengthen health emergency management and laboratory biosafety and biosecurity. She has played a leadership role in Canada’s response to public health emergencies including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1 and Ebola.

Dr. Tam has served as an international expert on a number of World Health Organization committees and has participated in multiple international missions related to SARS, pandemic influenza and polio eradication.”

This sounds like the sort of person we should listen to on such important health issues. Not television commentators.

This is what Dr. Tam said 3 days ago: “Let me be very clear. Today I am asking everyone to take strong action to help us delay the spread of COVID-19 and protect as many people as possible.” She also said the following: “With cases rapidly increasing in Canada … our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow.”

Those measures include cancelling non-essential travel outside the country; avoiding large public gatherings, increasing your public space and talking with your employer about working from home, she said. She also said, “This is our chance, right here, right now. We need to act now and we need to act together… You do not want this disease transmitted rapidly. Whatever you can do to decelerate that transmissions and break those chains of transmission is really important. We can do something about this now.”

We don’t want to panic or over react but we should all take the problem seriously not just for own sake, but for the sake of others around us.

While Trudeau said that Ottawa had not ruled out making self-isolation mandatory, Tam said that such a move would be difficult to police. “This is a voluntary self-isolation. It is impossible to be essentially keeping tabs on every single traveller that comes in,” she said.

“This is a social phenomenon, this is a societal response and everyone must take that responsibility,” she said.

I think this is what each of us should do to the best of our ability. For the sake of us all.

2 thoughts on “To panic or not to panic

  1. johnny boy

    welcome back…………..

    if only a massive percentage of the population were not contemptuous of professionals and science.

    here we have been in lock down for the last week except for forays to buy food and get exercise in the park. this could go on for months. i am not sure how to countenance this.
    then there is the real possibility of repeated waves of the same infection such as the 1918 pandemic.

    i would suggest a cessation of all social activities outside of your wife. period. no children, no grandchildren, nobody. everything by the net and the phone. nothing but grocery and necessary medical trips.

    there is a darwinian element here. the demographic pyramid is overweight at the top with age. chronic disease compounds this. massively disproportionate resources are expended there, particularly at the higher income levels which you and i are part of.

    the health care system will not cope in a significant number of places. not enough beds, not enough health care personnel, and not enough ventilators, already evident in seattle, china, italy, iran. if the cat is or gets out of the bag in new york city add that to the list.

    the result could well be a type of cull of older people and those with chronic diseases until treatment and vaccines are available.
    the time frame for that availability is crucial. some medications are already in use, but outside of standard scientific research protocols; so it is unclear how well they will work.
    vaccines are a good year away unless normative scientific protocols are kicked to the curb. if those protocols are bypassed it is also unclear how well they will work.

    reliable estimates are that worldwide deaths could come close to the number in wwii, like 60 million.
    that is huge, but we need to remember that the VAST majority who are infected will survive.

    if we are very lucky and efficacious medications and vaccines are available much sooner than anticipated……………

    given that a global depression is quite possible the survivors and the rest of the planet may well live in a very different way. some of that will depend on whether overwhelming, and i mean overwhelming, economic/financial intervention occurs on a global scale. nothing close to that kind of intervention is as yet being publicly recommended by political and financial leadership. we are talking many multiple trillions.

    1. i think a lack of respect for science and expertise lies at the heart of the lame American response early on. Trump suggested CV was hoax. He has a history of ignoring expert advice and relying instead on hunches, feelings, instincts, faith. That is no way to run a country. I don’t like your notion of a cull of old people. That includes us. We are hunkered down and for the first two days have not gone out. I will soon go for walks while keeping a safe distance from all people. I think that is encouraged. I fear too the economic crisis. Unlike 2008 we have a person in charge in the most important country in the world who relies on instincts without good advice.I have no confidence in Steve Mnuchin at all. Who else in that administration knows anything at all about finance or economics? WE may be in bigly trouble.

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