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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Nanaimo area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

FOI records provided to the News Bulletin from the City of Nanaimo in 2018. (News Bulletin file photo)
Samra’s numerous FOI requests to City of Nanaimo aren’t ‘vexatious,’ privacy commissioner decides

Former CAO says records will assist her in a future B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Most Read