It’s time to double down against COVID-19 in Chilliwack.
That’s the word from Dr. Marc Greidanus, an emergency room doctor at Chilliwack General Hospital. He agreed to a Q&A style interview again with The Chilliwack Progress, on the heels of the first one in April 2020, with a very timely update for the start of this year.
P: What is the key message this time?
G: The time for Chilliwack to double down on COVID precautions is now, even if just for a few weeks. If we can nail it down today, spring and summer will be so much better.
P: Numbers are still very high. Could Chilliwack be hitting the peak of a second wave?
G: Can’t tell a peak until you’re over it! This is the most we’ve ever seen. Just after Christmas it was clear the virus was really moving in.
P: Last time we spoke it was like a ghost town in the ER. It was the first wave. Everyone was staying home. What about now with so many more cases?
G: It’s busy. We are seeing sick and dying people every day. That was not the case until about mid-January. Now there’s intubations and younger people with strokes and pneumonia. But our system is not broken. It is working. If we need to transfer sick people out, we can. There are patients lining the halls of emergency but we are not out of ventilators. Our nurses and techs are exhausted. The system is creaking – but it is not breaking. If you need to see us about a broken arm or new chest pain, please come. We are open and we are safe.
P: The arrival of the vaccine has been cause for great optimism. Is it warranted?
G: Yes. Despite some well-documented hiccups, plans are rolling out on the ground, and will be making a huge difference very soon. There’s been a lot of press about delays, but so far we are still getting our vaccines. Fraser Health is doing a great job with the clinics. It is happening for real. Long-term care residents and staff have basically all been vaccinated, and a big proportion of the hospital staff and our most vulnerable populations have, too. The death rate is going to drop very quickly.
P: We’ve been hearing about super-spreading variants of the virus and it’s super scary.
G: Of course there will be variants, that’s what viruses do. Some are highly transmissible but the vaccines will catch up when put together with our precautions. No variant has been shown to be vaccine resistant to any great degree. It’s fantastic that we’ve invested in so many different vaccines. They will all perform slightly differently and we can target them as we learn. Two are here. Two are coming. More on the way. That’s why it’s not unreasonable for the feds to be rolling out vaccine capacity into next fall. This will be an ongoing issue.
P: What about the long-term effects?
G: One of the biggest long-term effects of COVID-19 will be on our collective mental health. There’s been a rise in depression. Spousal abuse. More alcohol consumption. More anxiety. We can win against COVID with vaccines, but that doesn’t address these distant ramifications. And multiply that by the socioeconomic effects of business closures, job losses and strained government finances.
P: That sounds like a long road. Does getting outside really help with mental health?
G: In Chilliwack we are so blessed to have all this space. In particular our spectacular forests are world class for promoting mental and physical health. And they are free to use. The minimum requirement almost anywhere in this town is a pair of shoes. Get outside!
P: Should I wear a mask when I‘m going outdoors?
G: Being outside has been deemed very safe. Go for walks in the forest or around town, go skiing, check out new hikes. It’s completely reasonable to wear a mask if it feels crowded or unsafe, but outdoors it’s not necessary, especially on a hiking trail. Use common sense. Don’t close talk, don’t share food or water bottles, clean your hands.
P: Last words?
G: Please double down, Chilliwack. Keep interactions to a minimum. Stick with your family. Wash your hands. Wear your mask with pride. Late spring and summer are going to be so much fun. Masks and zoom meetings may never go away, but we will get our friends back.
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