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COVID-19 Update

In monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm feeling more optimistic than I was about a week ago, primarily because it's clear that more countries are understanding the importance of social distancing, canceling unnecessary gatherings, avoiding non-essential travel, and supporting the health care system.

Canada and the United States appear to be learning from what is happening in Italy, Spain, and other European countries.  

I anticipate that within the next few days to a week, Canada and the United States will follow the lead of others in temporarily shutting down all non-essential services, leaving only grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, the postal service, and possibly portions of the freight industry open to operate.  

Children and adolescents do not appear to get sick from this virus, but they are highly effective carriers, which is why temporarily closing schools is a prudent decision.  For now, schools in North America appear to be taking closures on a biweekly or monthly basis, but I would not be surprised if provinces and states eventually decide to cancel school for the remainder of this current semester.

As I've tried to be clear about in previous updates on COVID-19, the risk of mortality for generally health people is very low, somewhere between 0 to 1 percent and skewing closer to 0 the healthier a person is.  

The reason for adhering to social distancing is to lower morbidity and mortailty rates for the following groups of people who are at higher risk of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19:

1.  Health care workers and first responders.

2.  The elderly - those over 70 years of age.

3.  People who are on immunosuppressive drugs.

4.  People who have existing respiratory or cardiovascular disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

For people in these groups, in the event that they are infected with SARS-CoV2 (the actual virus that causes COVID-19 disease), thankfully, there are developing treatment options that appear to be helpful.  

One antiviral drug that has been used in many cases of COVID-19 globally is remdesivir, an antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences.  Remdesivir was originally developed to treat Ebola, and shows promise in the treatment of a range of RNA viruses.  Data on remdesivir and its effectiveness in treating COVID-19 should become available sometime in April.

Others are suggesting and testing the use of antibodies from plasma of patients who have recovered from COVID-19.  As of Sunday afternoon, there are 162,701 infections and 76,219 recovered cases reported globally, so using convalescent plasma appears to be viable and scalable should it be widely adopted as a treatment option.

What we're trying to avoid is overwhelming hospitals and exceeding their capacity to provide critical care for those who develop severe respiratory distress - at some point, insufficient ventilators can be the reason for people dying from COVID-19, and this can be prevented or at least minimized if all of us do our part with social distancing.  

The pathophysiology of the SARS-CoV2 virus and COVID-19 disease is still being studied, but all evidence thus far points to it attacking enough alveoli in the lungs to cause fluid buildup and collapse of sections of the lungs.  SARS-CoV2 also appears to reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells, which may ultimately be the reason why people with cardiovascular disease and diabetes have a higher risk of experiencing serious complications with COVID-19.    

So beyond social distancing, what can we do?

1.  Prioritize restful sleep.

2.  Be mindful of managing emotional stress.

3.  Engage in regular exercise - with all of the equipment-free exercise routines available at YouTube, all of us can find ways of working on our mobility and conditioning while at home.  For those who may not be aware of our playlist of various mobility exercise routines, they can be found here:

4.  Stay well hydrated with healthy liquids and water-rich foods.

5.  Prioritize intake of healthy protein and healthy fat and reduce intake of sugar and other refined carbohydrates.

6.  Reach out to loved ones regularly via phone and video chat if available - let's not underestimate the need for human connection and the dangers of loneliness.

7.  Engage in deep, diaphragmatic breathing a few times daily.  If we can do this in fresh air, all the better, even if it's through a window.

8.  Have a stockpile of non-perishable food and other needed supplies, enough to last a household for at least three weeks.


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