Now is the toughest time in the evolution of any disease outbreak. Most people are really tired of the isolation, the “social distancing” and all the other precautions that have been in place for over two weeks. The numbers don’t seem to be dropping and the news is discouraging for the most part: more people getting sick, greater numbers needing intensive care, many more dying.

It’s understandable to be discouraged but the truth is this is exactly what is to be expected. Even if all our measures were working (and they most certainly are to some degree), because of the incubation period of the disease and the fact that not all the limitations were put in place at the same time, it’s going to take a minimum of two to three incubation cycles to start to see some effect. In other words, at least six weeks from the start when all these measures were instituted.

This is why you hear public health officials and our premier telling people to expect this to continue into late April. It will. It is exactly what is to be expected. But that doesn’t mean we are losing the battle. It does mean that it will take a great deal of resolve on everyone’s part to see this through. To say it’s been tough is an understatement but now is the most important period in this outbreak if we’re going to stop the virus from overwhelming our health care system.

One more thing to bring to your attention. While it’s true that statistically speaking it’s the elderly and people with underlying health issues who are most likely to have a difficult time with this infection, the truth is anyone at just about any age is at risk. Just because you’re 20 and healthy doesn’t mean you’re immune. There have been deaths in every age group and when we talk about a lesser risk in people under the age of 60, that statistic applies to hundreds of thousands of people in general, not to you as an individual.

For you the risk is all or none. You either get sick or you don’t. Do you really want to take the chance that you’re that unfortunate person who will get very sick and perhaps die? I don’t think so. So everyone at every age needs to respect the rules of social distancing and hand washing both for their own sake and the sake of not spreading the disease within the community.

We can do this. We just have to continue doing what we’ve been doing and not let down our guard.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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