In the “worst case”, Canada experiences a second massive wave in the fall that overwhelms the healthcare system, followed by weaker peaks in the following months.
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It is not yet clear which of these will come true, as it depends on public health measures, public behavior, and even a little luck. But experts say it’s clear that over the next year or so we will be battling increases and decreases in the number of cases and may need to re-lock down as a result.
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“We’re definitely going to live with this through the winter and beyond,” said Ashleigh Tuite, infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Toronto.
“I think it’s really, really important to remember that what the next moment is going to be like really depends on how we get on with it.”
Tuite expects cases, and public health measures to address them, to fluctuate for the foreseeable future.
“It’s not like we’re going to be totally locked down next year,” she said. “But there will certainly be times when we find ourselves more in a lockdown situation than we are now.”
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Tuite co-wrote an article in the spring that predicted this situation: intermittent lockdowns interspersed with periods where “sometimes we can get some fresh air.” This would help keep the pandemic at a manageable level while the world waits for a vaccine, she said.
Jason Kindrachuk, Canada Research Chair in Emerging Viruses at the University of Manitoba, has another fear about fall: flu season.
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“I think it’s the worst case scenario – you just add COVID-19 to everything we’re already facing,” he said.
While there are signs that the social distancing measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus could also reduce influenza infections, he is worried about what could happen.
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In general, however, he shares a similar opinion to Tuite: cases will increase and decrease throughout the year as children return to school and people spend more time indoors.
“There will likely be ebbs and flows in this pandemic.”
He imagines that unlike the massive blunt lockdown instrument we saw in the spring, future lockdowns will be targeted at specific regions that are experiencing a problem, or specific activities contributing to it.
People need to prepare for the eventuality of a lockdown, said Steven Taylor, professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia.
“It’s going to be kind of a grumpy acceptance,” he said.
But while no one will like another lockdown, they think it’s worth reviewing the last time you went through one.
“What did I learn from this experience? What has worked well, what has not worked so well? What could I do differently? And how do you avoid the long lines of panicked buyers and things like that? ”
Recognizing the types of coping strategies that helped you overcome a previous lockdown can help you prepare for it, he said.
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According to his research, he said, the people who did relatively well during the spring lockdown established a routine, exercised regularly and did not use too many drugs or alcohol. It also helped if people remembered making these sacrifices for the good of the community, he said.
Dealing with uncertainty is mentally difficult, he said, so it would also help if governments were able to set clear expectations or deadlines, if possible, on what a lockdown might consist of and how long they would take. expect it to last.
According to Tuite, some calculations show that it takes three weeks of lockdown to reduce infection rates after a week of exponential spread – meaning it’s better to prevent infections in the first place, rather than trying to repair the damage later.
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But not everyone is so sure that we will be spending time locked in our homes during the winter.
Dr. Matthew Pellan Cheng, an infectious disease physician at the McGill University Health Center, sees reason to be slightly optimistic about the season ahead.
Even though he believes Canada will experience a “second wave” of COVID-19, he doesn’t think it will be as bad as what we saw in the spring.
“When you compare our current situation to the start of the pandemic, we now have effective treatment. We didn’t have that at the start, ”he said.
The treatment he is referring to is dexamethasone, which has been shown to improve outcomes in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 sick enough to require supplementation with oxygen.
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“We have increased the capacity of diagnostic tests,” Cheng said. “We have the ability to test behind the wheel. We didn’t have that at the start. We are also more aware of the public. People are socially distanced. People wear masks. We didn’t have that at the start of the pandemic. And people travel a lot less. ”
All of these things, he hopes, will make the next waves of infection less than we have already experienced.
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