To fight COVID-19, we need to accept the pandemic will never be fair: expert

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The pandemic isn’t fair and it’s never going to be — that’s a reality we all need to accept in order to combat COVID-19 as a community, according to a public health expert.

Comparing this health crisis to some in the past, epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan says during the Bubonic plague there were corpses in the streets, so the danger to yourself and your community was visibly apparent.

What we see now is hospitals without chaos and numbers on a screen. The personal connection isn’t clear.

“When the risk is unclear, we resort to our base natures, in some ways,” Deonandan explains, adding without the in-your-face evidence of the impact of COVID-19, the pandemic “isn’t real to a lot of people.”

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“It comes down to how well you internalize abstract concepts that you cannot taste, and touch, and feel. For some people … who don’t see chaos [at hospitals] and they see the hallways being empty and they assume, ‘oh, this is a fake emergency.’ But in fact, emergency is conceptual and there’s not enough healthcare workers to care for the number of sick,” he adds.

He says it’s also hard for many to conceptualize the idea of community risk versus individual risk.

During the plague, Deonandan says many knew there was a high risk of them getting sick and dying. Because of that personal risk, he says people were able to internalize the severity of what was happening.

“With community risk, and COVID is all about community risk, you have a 99.5 per cent of surviving, and 0.5 per cent sounds really small, but when you scale it up to the population level, that’s tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dead — an in an overwhelmed system,” he explains, adding it’s connecting that to personal risk that many find difficult.

The harsh reality we need to accept, Deonandan says, is we can help a person or business through economic hardship, but we can’t help someone who is dead. The sacrifices we have to make for our community aren’t all even or fair but he stresses they’re necessary.

“My actions affect you, your actions affect me so if I don’t wear a mask that might mean someone three blocks over is going to die. But at the same time because I had to protect that person the business two blocks over may not survive.”

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