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

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all

Canada has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases of pandemic

A couple living at the Summerland Waterfront Resort is trying to sell their unit because of strata changes which will require them to pay significantly higher strata fees or have their unit included in the resort’s rental pool (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Couple living at Summerland resort facing increases

Permanent residents of Summerland Waterfront Resort told fees will more than double

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

The bus shelter across from the police detachment is one of ten smashed Jan. 17. (Monique Tamminga)
Glass smashed out of 10 bus shelters in Penticton

One of the bus shelters is right across from the RCMP detachment

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Police are seeking further witnesses after an elderly woman who was struck by a vehicle in Salmon Arm succumbed to her injuries. (File Photo)
Salmon Arm pedestrian dies after being hit by truck along Highway 1

Collision took place on Jan. 15 in downtown Salmon Arm, police looking for witnesses

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Moose chases two people near North Okanagan school

Conservation and dog control attending to the situation

The sale of the Kirschner Mountain Development for $22M marks the largest in Realtor history, in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
Kelowna mountain development sold for $22M

The sale of the 640-acre Kirschner Mountain development has made the history books

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Most Read