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A viral pandemic to learn from

As of March 29, more than one third of U.S. counties have no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those counties, 85 per cent are in rural areas, likely because they have less everyday contact with people outside their region.
Jo Graber column

As of March 29, more than one third of U.S. counties have no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those counties, 85 per cent are in rural areas, likely because they have less everyday contact with people outside their region. For the most part, they are naturally isolated. 

In addition, they have a high median age, large proportion of people over 60, considerably fewer intensive care beds, and lower household incomes which limits their access to health care choices. If those counties do get infected, they will have fewer medical care resources available locally. Therefore, preventative tactics become more important, such as surveying residents to determine the level of contact individuals had with people outside the region, especially those neighbouring counties which have COVID-19 cases. Those who report suspected contact should then be screened for the virus.

At the opposite end of the infected spectrum are cruise ships, which house a population served primarily with mechanically ventilated air, much of it recirculated with the minimum required outdoor air added. This adds another dangerous contamination source to a confined population of travellers. 

The worst outbreak to date was on the Diamond Princess, which departed from Yokahama, Japan with about 3,700 passengers. Eventually 712 COVID-19 cases were reported on the ship resulting in 11 deaths. At least 26 cruise ships have had a total of over 1,000 COVID-19 cases resulting in 19 deaths to date. 

The highest concentration of COVID-19 cases is in densely populated urban areas, many with poor air quality from traffic as well as industry. In locations such as northern Italy, the air quality frequently exceeds the acceptable levels such as that for nitrogen dioxide. The reduction of traffic around the industrial quarantined cities has been noted on recent satellite imaging. Such observations have resulted in numerous researchers speculating whether the compromised respiratory systems of residents have led to increased infections as well as increased deaths.

Many countries rely on seasonally boosting their farming workforce with migrant workers. Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, foreign workers are not able to enter Canada and the U.S., thus endangering the domestic and international food security. Currently seeding and planting season is approaching in parts of Canada. As is so often the case, government representatives say one thing, and then need to clarify what was said within days and sometimes hours. In this case the foreign workers allowed to enter were only from the U.S. So, on Monday, March 30, the statement was "Details around temporary foreign workers and those with student/worker visas are currently being developed and will be announced shortly."

The above is a small sampling of hundreds of issues which are related to a single event, a viral pandemic for which most countries and most individuals were not prepared.

We can deal with standard emergency issues such as created by traffic accidents, fires, earthquakes, train derailments, mass shootings, airplane crashes, sinking ships, even wars. Yet, a microscopic virus that is relatively new on the scene is able to create havoc in virtually every country on this planet because, unlike other emergency response systems, most countries did not listen to experts who warned us that we needed to be prepared for the next pandemic.

Therefore, when this pandemic is over, we cannot simply sit back and say: “We survived a pandemic.” We must listen to those predictions. We have now seen why. 

We must each do our part to make sure that those we elect and those we hire to act during the next pandemic are the best, non-political partisan able to do the job they have been selected for in our municipality, province and country. In addition, we must make sure that we take better preventive action to reduce the risk of an onset of a new potent virus compromising human health, whether locally or worldwide.

We have been aware of deteriorating built infrastructure and lack of funding to maintain and repair it in a timely fashion. We must now realize that we have a new emerging issue to add to the list: the deteriorating collapsing preventative and integrated health-societal system infrastructure, both preventative and treatment components.

Finally, remember to stock up on toilet paper. 

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