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March 9, 2020

COVID-19: Think beyond Personal risk.

What happens with COVID-19 coronavirus and the spread of the virus is really up to us—as a collective.

Essentially, it is up to societies how they will choose to respond to this outbreak.

I learned more about this idea while listening to a coronavirus expert on YouTube last night. Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, explained the long-term dangers of the Covid-19 coronavirus — saying it’s the scariest outbreak he’s dealt with in his 20-year career.

He goes on to report:

“The potential of the virus has already been demonstrated in China, Italy and Iran–in terms of attack rates. Take a look at what happened in Italy. There were three cases identified in Italy two weeks ago, and yesterday, there are now over 3000 cases.”

He further stressed that:

“Right now, many epidemiologists agree that the potential of the coronavirus is an attack rate of 50-70% of the global population.”

This doesn’t mean all will be fatalities—but it does mean many will be infected and become carriers, and some people will be succumbing to death (primarily vulnerable populations, including immunocompromised/immunosuppressed individuals and elderly).

Many epidemiologists who talk about the potential of the virus in terms of attack rates globally. They do this to avoid making predictions. Talking about the potential of the virus is important in helping us understand how dangerous a threat it is. Understanding the threat then helps us mobilize around solutions that work, including what we can do to change the trajectory.

The thing is, as a collective, we can change the trajectory of this infectious disease.

 Dr. Hatchett points to Singapore and Hong Kong as a model societies:

“Singapore had its first case on January 23, and yesterday, they had got up to 115 cases, over a 6-week period. They have been able to through their public health interventions, public health responses, contact tracing, isolation of cases, and through engaging the public, keep the virus under control. So, it is up to us how we respond to the virus. It is important to recognize the virus is here, and has tremendous potential to be disruptive and cause high rates of illness, and high rates of death. But that is not a future that is locked in.”

“We as a collective need to recognize that the virus is here. It has been circulating for some time now. And we need to realize, we are not dealing with the flu. It is many, many times more lethal than the flu… We have also never seen a virus, since the 1918 Spanish Flu, that has the combination of infectiousness and ability to cause severe disease or death.”

~ Dr. Richard Hatchett

Dr. Hatchett urges us to recognize that: contact tracing is very important; voluntary isolation of infectious cases is very important; closure of schools needs to be considered; and closure of workplaces (maybe not just yet), but soon, also should be considered.

Start today: think beyond personal risk to social risk.

Dr. Hatchett urges us all to start thinking in terms of the social risk. This includes social distancing as the primary health intervention:

“If we have a cold with classic symptoms, and then shake hands with an immunosuppressed individual, say at work, we could then be responsible for someone’s future illness or even death.”

“We now have to modify our behaviours in ways that reduces the risk of transmitting the virus. This includes thinking about our responsibility to each other as we govern our behaviour. We can view the epidemic in terms of our personal risk, but we now need to act collectively in a cooperative manner.”

~ Dr. Richard Hatchett

Watching the 20-minute video will inspire us towards collective action. Please take the time to consider this perspective, and how you will think of others going forward—starting today.






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