Dr. Srinivas Murthy, who works in the intensive care unit at B.C. Children’s Hospital, poses for a photograph in Vancouver, on Friday, December 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, who works in the intensive care unit at B.C. Children’s Hospital, poses for a photograph in Vancouver, on Friday, December 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

5 things we’ve learned about COVID-19 since the pandemic struck

It’s difficult to believe the year is almost over

When the first COVID-19 cases trickled into Canada, little was known about the novel coronavirus. Almost one year later, experts have made major strides in cracking the virus’s code and understanding its behaviour. Dr. Srinivas Murthy, who works in the intensive care unit at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, reviews some of the lessons learned.

1. It can spread through air. “I still remember the original conversations in January when we weren’t really sure if it was sustained human-to-human transmission based on the first few cases in Wuhan,” Murthy said. Since then, scientists have learned the virus can spread not only through droplets but also by air — important information for public health policy makers. Aerosol transmission means it may not be enough for two people to maintain a certain distance in the same room. It’s important to ventilate the room, or avoid being in the same room entirely. “It’s a combination of the two that’s driving the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Canada updates COVID-19 guidelines to include airborne transmission, following U.S., WHO

2. Our health system has weak spots. “A pandemic stresses our health system and our population at its weak points, and we need to shore up those weak points,” Murthy said. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that some communities have less access to health care or are harder to reach through public health messaging. It has disproportionately affected vulnerable communities, including those living in long-term care facilities, Murthy said. While those groups may have baseline risks because of their co-morbidities, health outcomes could be improved, for example, through targeted messaging for particular cultural groups, Murthy said.

3. Children have better outcomes. Although there is some debate about the role children have played as spreaders of the novel coronavirus, a “saving grace” in the pandemic has been that they tend to have better outcomes when infected than adults. “If children were affected at a rate of severe disease that we’re seeing with adults and the elderly, this would be a very different last 12 months,” Murthy said.

4. The power of prevention. At the outset of the pandemic, much attention was paid to critical care capacity, like available beds and ventilators. As an ICU doctor himself, Murthy said he’s glad that stage of care has been highlighted, however, it would be more effective to shift the focus onto prevention rather than treatment. That means focusing resources on measure that reduce the risk of transmission, contact tracing and vaccine development. “The overall goal in a pandemic should not be to rely on your intensive care unit to save you. Your goal in a pandemic should be not getting the disease,” Murthy said. “We should be seen as the last line of defence.”

5. There’s a vaccine. “You can always generate a vaccine for anything but whether or not it’s effective is the major question,” Murthy said. Successful trials and the rollout of vaccines in Canada and across the world means there’s light at the end of the tunnel. “That obviously is our pathway out of this. That’s very cool, obviously, and the science and everything that led to where we are right now is awesome and cool to see happen.”

READ MORE: Health Canada authorizes use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victims’ court cases proceed

Responses to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council Feb. 9

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

(File photo/Lauren Collins Vana)
Ponoka cat owners have until July 1, 2021 to purchase licenses

Town council passed new Animal Control Bylaw Feb. 23

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

A ” Justice for Jeff” T-shirt. (Photo submitted)
Rally to be held outside courthouse for slain Ponoka man

At what may be the last opportunity for Jeffery Kraft of Ponoka… Continue reading

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Most Read