Vladimir Lenin once famously said “there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”
I’ll leave it up to you to deduce which of these scenarios we are in now.
Over the last two weeks we’ve seen Western governments across the globe pull a complete 180 with regard to how they are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leaders which once shrugged off the virus as a “low risk” to the masses are now admitting that, yes, perhaps the previously-unknown zoonotic virus with an R0 (the number of people each infected person infects on average during the course of their illness) of over 3 (by comparison, the regular flu averages around 1.3) is, in fact, a big issue.
If I sound a little bitter at much of the world’s response to this virus, it’s because I am. Anyone who was paying attention to the spread of COVID-19 in early February could see the writing on the wall. For me, it was when I saw the videos of CPC members literally welding Wuhan residents into their own apartments with steel bars.
An authoritarian regime with millions of bodies to spare doesn’t tank its own economy and start the largest quarantine in the history of humanity just for kicks.
But I digress. We are now seeing governments of the world respond. Trudeau has shut down all domestic travel to non-Canadians (with the exception of immediate family members of Canadian citizens, diplomats and U.S. citizens). In Ontario Premier Ford has declared a state of emergency, requiring things like libraries, child centres, restaurants and movie theatres to close immediately.
B.C. has done the same and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is asking people to limit gatherings to under 50 people “for the foreseeable future”.
In Smithers, a number of essential services such as the pool and library have shut down. Many restaurants are focussing on takeout, upping their sanitation game and giving staff refreshers on cleanliness.
Does this feel like overreacting? Good, it should.
That’s exactly what we are going to have to do if we are to protect the most vulnerable members (the elderly, immunosuppressed, or otherwise ill) of our community.
It’s easy for us 20-something-year-olds to complain about the pool being closed or the Canucks season getting cut short early. But as someone whose 93-year-old grandma living in Northern Ontario is not taking this seriously, I’m beyond relieved to hear that others are.
When our grandparents stormed the beaches of Normandy they didn’t do so because they wanted to. It was a necessary sacrifice made to ensure the longevity of future generations.
And make no mistake, while we are not being shipped off to battle, this will be a war. And it’s just beginning.
Even if we can “flatten the curve”, we don’t know if COVID-19 has reached the saturation point to spread enough through mutations to resist a hypothetical vaccine and potentially become a yearly virus like the flu.
Perhaps even scarier is that while viruses tend to evolve to become more virulent and less deadly, the selective pressures on a virus that already has an extremely virulent transmission period to do so is less.
This is because, unlike a virus with an extremely low transmission period and high lethality that becomes more virulent out of biological necessity, COVID-19 does not have the textbook problem of killing off too many of its hosts too quickly without sustained spread (think Ebola).
If anything, the virus is spreading extremely efficiently and a more lethal variant would be a logical mutation to beat out the others.
Again, this is a war. If we stumble now, it’s possible we will never recover.
One last relevant nugget of knowledge to illustrate this: remember the Spanish Flu? Remember how many people it killed and how it’s become imprinted in history as our last modern pandemic?
I’ll wager you didn’t know it went from being a slightly-worse-than-average flu when it first appeared in March 1918 to the killer we know it as after a mutation first observed around August 1918 began to cause a “cytokine storm” effect in otherwise healthy 25 to 35-year-olds, causing them to drown in their own fluid-filled lungs.
If COVID-19 began in early January, we’re about 2 months out of that above five-month mutation period we saw with the Spanish Flu. Let’s use that time to prepare.
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