By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner & Press
Another week, another COVID-19 column. I promise, I do have other things I’d like to write about, but it’s hard when most of our lives are on hold, as we watch this virus race around the world.
This week will be one of the most important in Canada’s battle against COVID-19, it’s when we will find out just how successful our efforts to get out in front of the virus have been. We look around and see Italy, which is still registering a daily death toll of 700 to 800 people, a rate that has been constant for over a week. We look to Spain, which is about a week behind Italy, but is now showing a higher incident of infection — 1,881 cases per million residents, compared to Italy’s 1,683. Though Italy’s death rate, 192 per million of population, remains slightly higher.
Then we look south. The United States surpassed China and Italy’s total reported cases on Thursday. Infection rates are continuing to grow exponentially and if that country’s numbers mirror those of Spain and Italy, in about a month, they will be looking at 550,000 infections and 54,000 deaths among the country’s 327 million residents.
On March 30, the United States had 163,844 positive cases and 3,156 deaths. While initial hot-spots were located on both coasts, with New York especially hard hit, there are now stories of hospitals in places such as rural Georgia and Detroit becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
On March 30, Canada had 7,448 cases and 89 deaths. That day, 1,128 of those cases and 24 of those deaths were new. In Manitoba, we had a total of 96 positive cases, including four individuals in hospital and one in intensive care.
What will our future hold? This is the week Canadians will be anxiously watching the numbers come in. We are two weeks into physical distancing, with the public health orders regarding crowd sizes, quarantine requirements for returning travellers and the types of businesses that can operate becoming increasingly strict. COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days, so new infections will have taken place with some form of physical distancing in place. Will we see widespread community transmission, or will it continue to be mostly limited to cases where the transmission chain is known?
On March 30, the Manitoba Public Health order limiting public gatherings to less than 10 people came into effect and it was announced that starting April 1, all businesses deemed non-essential would have to close. Additionally, restaurants can no longer serve within their building, only by takeout or delivery, something many were already doing. These orders will be in place for a minimum of 14 days. Each day, we watch to see if what we did weeks ago is working. Are we flattening the curve? Are we keeping our health care facilities from becoming crushed by an unrelenting wave of patients seeking care? Provinces with more cases than us seem to be seeing their infection rates grow at a less rapid pace than those places that were caught unaware or who failed to understand what the pandemic would mean. A positive sign.
Over the next weeks, we will have at least some answers.