It took hard words and harder numbers to change us. Lockdowns are not normal. Neither is social isolation. Many of those words and numbers have been proven wrong. They are now being changed as new facts are coming to light. Now that we are beginning a social and economic reboot, we must act with these new facts in mind. Through this crisis we have felt it is a responsibility of media to put facts in perspective. This is not done often enough. Understanding the new words and numbers will give us courage again.
Our numbers in Quebec continue to improve. New case numbers are dropping every day even as we have doubled our daily tests in the past ten days to 14,000. New cases are half the number they were when we were testing just 7,000 a day. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions have dropped dramatically in total numbers not just in percentage terms. And deaths are the lowest since early April and have fallen from an average of 100 a day to about half that number.
The great tragedy has been what has happened in the seniors homes. That is an injustice that we must face and make right as a society. But that too requires perspective. Just nine days ago it was revealed that Montreal has three times the number of seniors in residences per capita than any other major city in North America. As Premier Legault said, creation of CHSLDs was a “societal” decision taken in the late 90s. And we must perfect the system as a society. But what has also come to light in the past two weeks is that as many as 40% of the seniors who died may have had Covid but did not die from it. They died from their bodies breaking down from dehydration and malnutrition. And even though 80% of seniors over 75 live alone or with family, we need to insure that the treatment of the 20% in homes will never be compromised by the wrongs we have just seen.
Another important truth that it will take courage to accept is that mistakes were made in numbers and projections. This needs to be stated not to point fingers and lay blame but to bolster our confidence and resolve. So many are frantically cleaning surfaces and wearing gloves because just ten weeks ago the Center for Disease Control had said that the virus lives on surfaces like plastic and steel and paper for hours and even days. But just last Thursday the CDC reported on its website that new evidence has demonstrated that the virus does not survive on surfaces for very long at all and the chances of contracting it from surfaces was minimal.
At the beginning of the pandemic the Health Canada Influenza website predicted a mortality rate from Covid of as much as 1.5% as compared to regular flu of 0.5%. Last Friday, Health Canada reversed it’s numbers. Because this has been a bad flu season, and Covid not as deadly as projected, it posted that the mortality rate from the flu stood at 1.3% while that for Covid was 0.5%.
Finally, last week, University of Washington medical researchers determined that Covid is of course very contagious, but not as contagious as measles, mumps, or even certain strains of pandemic Influenza. It is spread by respiratory droplets and aerosols, not food and incidental contact.
We need this perspective to open our doors and get back into the world. We will leave you with a reminder of one final convenient set of numerical truths. In 1968 the world suffered through the Hong Kong flue pandemic. With 3 billion less people, 1.1 million died. In Canada and the United States, with 153 million less people than today, some 110,000 died. Nothing was closed. Nothing was cancelled. We didn’t roll back civilization. Canada and America had elections. Trudeaumania was in full flower. Planning for Woodstock and the Apollo 11 moon landing went ahead. What made the difference? Maybe it was because the members of the “Greatest Generation” were in charge. A generation that only 23 years earlier had defeated the greatest tyrannies the world has ever known in the most horrific war ever fought. They understood that life involves risk. But that even in the face of risk, we carry on. They have left us their courage and resolve as a legacy and trust. Let us build on that legacy.