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“It may soon be completely out of control”: the terrible possibilities of COVID-19 could radically change Canada

As if the fear was not already in the air, if not in the ranks of the grocery stores, then the gloomy plans for a significant flu pandemic in Canada are a panic shock infused with the reality that makes you think of the worst scenarios while COVID- 19 continues its alarming spread.

Accumulating body bags, choosing a central place where people carry corpses of family members, and identifying hockey and curling rinks cold enough to be temporary morgue spots are among the government’s planning guidelines.

The increase in crematorium capacity, the exhaustion of coffins and the space of the church for holding funerals and the recruitment of temporary grave seekers are all outlined in “Management of mass victims: Canadian preparation for pandemic flu”, a planning guideline prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2009.

“There are currently no plans to recommend mass burials or mass cremations. This would only be considered in the most extreme circumstances, “the guidelines offer reassuringly.

This could easily happen here in a very short order

Warns of deaths for six months compressed in six weeks.

“Most crematoriums are able to manage about one body every 4 hours and could run for more than 24 hours to cope with rising demand. Cremations have fewer resources than burials and, where acceptable, this can be a convenient and efficient way of dealing with a large number of deceased during a pandemic.

“Refrigerated trucks can generally hold 25-30 bodies without additional shelving.”

These are difficult words to read.

It’s up to the disaster planners to think of the unthinkable.

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The scenarios they imagine are stuff from nightmares and end-of-time films but, of course, having such plans is better than the alternative of not having them, also hoping that they are never necessary.

What is happening all over the world and the beginning across Canada makes this new coronavirus contagion the most worrying fear for generations.

Medical staff are treating patients in a temporary emergency room, set up to ease the pressure on the healthcare system caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in a hospital in Brescia, Italy, on March 13, 2020.

Flavio Lo Scalzo / Reuters

The hope of containment has failed.

What was once an alarming but distant tragedy in China is now, with a sudden slowness that most saw but did not accept, the Canadian reality. Or at least the beginning of what should become reality.

Many Canadians seem stuck in the process of thinking that the most important thing is to accumulate toilet paper or laugh at people who accumulate toilet paper.

The reality, however, is sinking.

As the virus jumps from one country to another, each nation reacts in its own way. A mix of surprise and dark humor greeted the reduction of national passions and considered a sign of the day of judgment: Iran cancels public prayers on Friday, the end of kisses in Italy, the closure of pubs in Belgium, the closure of football in Spain, the cancellation of basketball in March in the United States, the end of Tim Hortons’ Roll-Up-The-Rim contest in Canada.

Everyone caused an awakening.

Perhaps the NHL that suspended the hockey season was the shock that woke you up, or the closure of schools; perhaps it was the speech by U.S. President Donald Trump that canceled most of the trips from continental Europe or the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie, positive for COVID-19.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, customers flock to a Costco store in Montreal to stock up on food and supplies on March 13, 2020.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

Patty Hajdu, the federal health minister, said that COVID-19 could infect between 30 and 70% of the Canadian population. That would mean somewhere between 11.3 million and 26.3 million people in Canada could get sick, with varying severity.

Life for weeks, months or more – no one is really sure – will be significantly different.

What is happening in Italy offers a strong warning.

The Italian government has ordered a blockade nationwide. All stores except grocery stores, pharmacies and shops selling essential items were closed and all travel was severely limited. More than 1,000 people died with inevitable more deaths.

In the region around Milan, one of the richest areas in Italy, COVID-19 is breaking the health system.

“It’s as if I’m wondering what to do if an atomic bomb goes off,” Dr. Antonio Pesenti, head of the intensive care unit for the crisis in Lombardy. “You declare defeat. We will try to save what can be saved. “

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of intensive care at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said that the Italian crisis must trigger an aggressive reaction in Canada.

“This could easily happen here in a very short order,” said Warner.

“The COVID-19 situation is terrible and may soon be completely out of control. Healthcare resources are limited and therefore we will not be able to provide assistance to all those who get sick.

“We already perform 100% capacity on most days in intensive care units in Ontario and if we receive a (rise) in patients simultaneously … there is no system that can handle it. It is impossible.

“I don’t want to be in the position, which is something people are planning for, to have to resort to resources. This is something that we haven’t really experienced in Canada, but it’s the reality today in Italy: decisions are made about who has access to critical care and those who don’t and about people who don’t die.

“If we can spread the number of people who become infected over time, maybe the system can adapt,” said Warner.

A view of St. Peter’s Square, the fourth day of an unprecedented blockade across Italy imposed to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus, March 13, 2020.

Alberto Lingria / Reuters

What Warner and public health agencies are urging is simple behavior that everyone should adopt to slow down transmission speeds.

Washing your hands, covering your cough and avoiding contact with others will likely slow it down; “Social distancing can save thousands of lives,” said Warner.

The arrogance of modern life has made the simple request to wash our hands while our salvation seems ridiculous, a hymn to snowflakes or to wizards or handwring.

The reality is that these public health measures can be crucial.

“Given that there is currently no effective vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19, public health measures will be the only tools available to mitigate the impact of the virus,” said Canada’s Public Health Agency (PHAC) on Friday. ).

It is a strategy known as “flattening the curve”, based on graphs of potential peak infection rates. Reducing the peak burden on the health system caused by new cases and spreading this peak allows for better treatment for all patients.

“Flattening the Curve” offers the opportunity to significantly reduce COVID-19 deaths.

Matthew McQueen / Director, Public Health Program, University of Colorado Boulder

And he also buys time for a vaccine.

What could our lives be like when Canada is in full swing with COVID-19?

The government has plans and recommendations for measures for individuals, communities and governments.

It is a balance between risk and reward, personal freedom and cultural and religious needs, together with those who are most influenced by actions on a moving scale of possible responses.

The PHAC notes in its guidelines the ethical debate between “social and individual interests” and sides with society: “When a health risk such as a pandemic affects a population, public health ethics predominates and a higher value is placed on collective interests “.

Some possibilities are more invasive than others, such as the closure of public transport and schools.

“School closings spread as a control measure have the potential to result in high economic and social costs because school closings would have an impact on many families who have one or both parents working outside the home,” says PHAC.

It’s like I’m wondering what to do if an atomic bomb goes off. Declare defeat. We will try to save what can be saved

Other things, like going to church, theaters, sporting events and concerts could be risky.

“Restrictions on non-essential meetings could constitute an obstacle for access to group support and personal freedoms (for example, the cancellation of church services, the closure of community centers). It may also have cultural or religious implications (for example eg funerals, religious services, weddings). “

Companies should consider staggered working hours to avoid crowding, allowing work from home and relaxing sick leave policies. Companies may need to be closed all together depending on local situations, says PHAC.

Mass meetings such as concerts, sporting events, religious services and conferences should be reconsidered or avoided.

“They can amplify the spread of infectious diseases and have the potential to cause additional stress to the healthcare system if kept during epidemics,” say the guidelines.

Self-service buffets, he notes, should be off the menu.

If things get worse as they could, such trivial concerns will remain absent for a long time.

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