Thompsonites and others in Northern Manitoba can be forgiven for feeling a little on edge in the wake of last week’s announcement of Manitoba’s first positive test for the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which has since been followed by seven more (as of March 16) and a myriad of cancellations and closures, including Thompson city facilities being closed to the public and all Manitoba schools having classes suspended for a week on either side of spring break in an effort to limit or at least slow down the spread of the virus, which has caused more than 5,000 deaths worldwide since first being identified in China in December 2019.
That said, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective.
It is almost certain that COVID-19 will infect a substantial number of Manitobans, including people in the north, before the pandemic is through. Given that it is a very new virus, nobody, except perhaps those who have already had it and recovered, has any immunity or resistance to it. However, for most of those people, the infection will probably be the equivalent of a really nasty flu. It won’t be pleasant but it will go away on its own and symptoms can be dealt with using the same sorts of medicines and remedies that we employ for the flu or a bad head cold.
Because of its infectiousness and our collective lack of immunity, however, social distancing is a must. For those who are over the age of 65, who have significant underlying medical conditions or whose immunity is compromised, the coronavirus can be deadly, killing people in the high-risk groups at a far higher rate than the seasonal flu. Those of us who don’t have to worry about such things need to try to avoid catching COVID-19 and passing it on to those who do. Just as importantly, we have to avoid passing it on to a large number of people who are particularly susceptible at the same time, so as not to overwhelm our acute care medical system, which is simultaneously dealing with cases of the flu and all the other types of sicknesses that people are prone to.
In many ways, we here in Northern Manitoba are lucky. Our health officials have had time to watch the response of other provinces and countries and to learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. We have absorbed the lesson that taking measures before the virus starts to spread in our communities can help reduce its impact and both governments and other organizations have responded admirably to the threat by voluntarily taking steps that may hurt them in the short run but are good for the province collectively over the long term.
We are also lucky because, apart from the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, many of us have never lived through such a health scare before. We don’t have to look too far back in the past, maybe 70 years to the time when polio was still common in Canada, to find generations who have dealt with equally scary situations and emerged, not unscathed or unscarred, but mostly intact, from similar situations. All indications right now are that most of us will make it through this unharmed. Whatever individual hardships or inconveniences we are going to have to suffer along the way are minuscule in comparison to the consequences this pandemic could have for more vulnerable members of our society. Let’s all do our part to help protect them.