Our Collective Responsibility

Before the cold weather sends us indoors, before students are fully back to school, and before the second wave hits, COVID cases are rising at an alarming rate.

This week’s Toronto total is 617, up from 385 last week and 285 the week before. As recently as early August, we had it down to 141. You only need to chart that on the back of an envelope to see where this is heading.

Public Health officials began sounding the alarm several weeks ago when numbers started going back up after a summer lull. Most of us are still following the rules, but a   relatively small number who aren’t can prevent us from containing this virus, an outcome that affects all of us.

In recent weeks, approximately 70% of new cases are in people under 40. The good news with that is that a much smaller percentage of younger who test positive are getting seriously ill and requiring hospitalization. Many have no symptoms at all – which might be great for them but potentially lethal to more vulnerable older adults they can pass it on to.

In addition to the other requirements to stay safe – social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing – we need to be more vigilant about close contact with anyone who is ignoring the rules that keep us safe.

I’m guessing that the people causing the problems tend not to be regular readers of this newsletter. But in case you know people who take risks because they think they are the only ones affected by their decisions, here are some things to consider:

  1. The COVID reproduction rate in Toronto is now 1.2 – meaning that every 100 people who get COVID will pass it on to 120 others. If unchecked, this also means that the number of new cases will continue to increase exponentially. When that happens, it’s just a matter of time until community spread reaches the most vulnerable, leading to many hospitalisations and deaths.

  2. Because high percentages of young people who get the virus don’t even know they have it, it is very possible for them to unknowingly transfer their risk to older family members, or anyone else they come in contact with. In other words, the chain of risk that might begin with somebody who doesn’t look or feel sick could kill someone else.

  3. No matter what safety measures are taken within schools, COVID in the community will inevitably find its way there. The higher the overall COVID numbers, the more likely that a large number of cases will emerge in schools, potentially shutting them down again.

  4. Businesses such as restaurants, currently hanging on by their fingernails, are especially vulnerable to increases in the number of overall cases. If rapidly increasing case counts lead to a shutdown like we had in the spring, many will lose their business and, in some cases, their life savings.

  5. Many surgeries were postponed earlier this year when hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed. Because hospital capacity has increased, many have been rescheduled. A spike in hospitalizations would jeopardise this. A loss of access to health care can lead to all sorts of negative health consequences. These statistics don’t form part of the COVID death count.

As the cold weather moves us indoors, it is almost inevitable that a second COVID wave will come. But what this looks like, and how many people get seriously ill or die, is still largely within our control.

Today’s music video is about getting down to The Nitty Gritty. But the main reason to watch it is for the fantastic dancing. Don’t miss it.