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

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Nechako Figure Skating Club Canskate members Aubrie Sholer (from left), Renee Janzen, Alina Borno, Presley Stuckless, Sophia Reid and Layla Whittaker skate during a recent practice at the Vanderhoof Arena. (Photo submitted)
Nechako Figure Skating Club awarded local sport relief funds

“It will definitely help us recover from this and help us go on for another year.”

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

New three-storey seniors housing complex being builton the corner of Church Avenue and Victoria Street in Vanderhoof. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Housing availability a top priority for district: mayor

In Vanderhoof, 146 properties sold in 2020 worth $42.7 million

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Most Read