Cases of novel coronavirus infection in the United States are soaring—and the pace continues to accelerate. Canada is set to follow suit.

The American COVID-19 trajectory, with a two week lag, is remarkably similar to that of Italy’s, although the American infection rate now appears to be increasing further still.

On Saturday, for the first time, the US had more new cases than any other nation, including Italy. It will likely surpass all countries in terms of total cases in the near future.

Thus far Canada’s curve also mirrors the Italian experience.

Unfortunately, this was all freakishly predictable weeks ago. These warnings were not heeded in the US, nor in several other countries who are now paying the price.

For Canada, it remains to be seen whether our measures were enacted early enough. Likely the curve will be flattened somewhat, but by how much remains an open-ended question.

As we continue along this ordeal we would do well to change course where we can. However, as officials attempt to point out, due to the lag, efforts taken today will only have an effect two weeks from now. Infectious outbreaks—and measures taken to combat them--can only be evaluated in retrospect, through the proverbial rear view mirror.

Unsurprisingly, given its glib disownment of all things rational and scientific, the US government—with a paleolithic reprobate at its helm—has utterly bungled the response and its people will now pay the price for its slothful inactivity over the past two months.

The price will be a brutal one.

The problem with the COVID-19 pandemic is not so much the death and illness the virus causes directly, though this is clearly tragic and impactful to all those affected—either directly through infection, or indirectly through the illness of someone we know and care for.

But the real impact from a system and societal point of view unfolds as the health care response to infected cases siphons massive amounts of resources from other areas of an already strapped apparatus. At some point the system’s capacity becomes overwhelmed and very difficult decisions will need to be made.

Just look at Italy. Who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t? Real dilemmas about, for instance, whether or not to proceed with lifesaving cancer surgery or to redeploy scarce resources. Decisions literally about life and death.

We in Canada are fortunate enough, however, that we can still take some mitigating measures. We are very close to the tipping point, but perhaps not quite past it. We have had the immense good fortune of being one of the last industrialized countries to be affected by the virus and so have had the time to prepare.

Over the next week, the US will almost certainly become the new global epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will have more cases than Italy in a couple of days and will soon pass the number in China.

A massive tsunami is on our doorstep.

The border to our south must be sealed. At present, the border is closed to “non-essential” travel. But the list of “essential” reasons for travel remains broad, and seems overly weighted towards maintaining the patency of trade channels for the purposes of commerce, among other things.

Clearly there are essential goods that need to flow in each direction. But we should take a hard look at just what “essential” means in this context. Stringent measures should not be seen as permanent—this crisis won’t last forever—but for the time being, we need to be ruthless with trade policy in order to save lives.

Nevertheless, we know that COVID-19 has arrived and so the strategy must also incorporate this reality.

Given the lack of treatment, beyond oxygen and mechanical ventilation for the sickest of patients—as of yet there is no proven treatment and no vaccine—public health authorities are left with the rudimentary strategies of social distancing and quarantining when appropriate. Keep people apart as much as possible.

To a large degree, this now seems to be taking place and Canadians should be applauded for this. None of this is easy, and has come as a jolting shock for many.

These are transformative times and there is much that will need to be reckoned when the storm begins to ease.

In the meanwhile, there will undoubtedly be hard times for many. But perhaps this is also an opportunity to see each other through a different lens. To appreciate, and maybe even to nurture, our common humanity.

We are in this together.

The actions taken by Federal and Provincial governments in Canada must be followed by the population, staying home, practicing the 6 feet rule when we need to go out, washing your hands with soap and water are essential if we are to beat the Covid-19 virus. In action is unacceptable.

I completely agree. Not only must the Government take more stringent measures for the returning ‘snowbirds’ but also close down all man camps in Northern BC. Each of these man camps holds 400-500 labourers, some have up to 1000. workers, who after each stint of work, return to their homes. After which, they return to the camps in rotations. How is this a proper response to this pandemic? Asymptomstic persons spread the virus. The more men there are crowded together, the more will become infected and the infected, but asymptomstic men will carry the virus home with them. The virus, once it infects one person, will spread in the camps, local communities and Indigenous communities. There are said to be some extra medical resources in the camps, but the conditions in those camps do not allow for ‘social distancing’ and frequent hand washing, nor for adequate isolation and health care for infected men. This is a disaster waiting to happen. How on earth are these construction projects that require man camps essential services? And then there are the 100’s of RCMP officers. Why are they not helping in overloaded hospitals to mitigate COVID-19 instead of increasing the risk of aggravating this pandemic?

The construction camps for pipelines and oil sands work need to be quarantined or shutdown. Shutting the camps down and stopping construction is far better than risking the spread of COVID-19. If they decide to continue working a good plan for these construction camps would be relentless testing to find the single cases before they can multiply. A tough plan if the work is not stopped. As a last point if the work schedule is 6 weeks on 6 weeks off the camps and area of work would need a quarantine at the camp and work site restricting outsiders from entering. Testing of the workers inbound to the camp would be necessary. Outbound workers must be cleared before leaving. Not the best strategy but necessary if we are to beat this virus.

I see problems with what's happened/happening in Canada, beyond that a virus arrived.
We congratulate ourselves on our "response" ... but our response has been simply a kind of follow the slow leader (WHO), and the public health officials seem to have ignored much of the research, Not only that, but it takes a particular kind of hubris to think that doing the same thing as others have done will bring a different result.
Where are the people responsible for making policy getting their information? Why have they not been actively reviewing the science as it emerges, and making policy that errs on the side of safety?
Why, when we had our first case on Jan 25, did we not immediately whip into action, providing for enough testing, protective and treatment equipment?
Why are we exempting front line healthcare workers from the 14-day quarantine?
Frankly, kids in my 3rd grade class planning for a Valentine's Day party well over half a century ago were more forward-looking.
Why do Public Health statements continue to ignore now widely published science that contradicts their earlier messaging?
Why is no one calling out the "medical experts" giving invalid advice in radio, TV and online media, simply extrapolating from viral infections, generally, rather than modelling after the most similar virus, being SARS-1? This despite the science and cites having been shared with them ... ditto politicians at all 3 levels of government?
Why do the media "fact-checkers" not hold off publishing a fanciful reinterpretation of conclusions in the NEJM study, doubling down on the interviewee's prior opinions instead of truthfully representing the findings?
When we know a significant proportion of people who test positive are without symptoms, either before exhibiting them, after they've gone away, or at all, why are we still considering "potentially infected" individuals to be only those with fever?
When we already have serious shortages of equipment, which is being rationed and re-used by frontline health workers, why is the PM standing up and saying we have sufficient PPE, ICU beds and respirators, and don't worry, more will arrive within 30 days.
That says to me they *could* have had them rolled out a month ago, had anyone with planning expertise got involved, even if they didn't anticipate the virus would ever land in Canada before it actually did.
Why do Canadians, like citizens of other countries with really bad stats re testing, rates of caseload increase, and truthfulness in the messaging being delivered, still somehow seem to think we have the Best System In The World?
Find the stats. Just Google. We're doing really poorly, and that fact is hid only by sites that publish numerical totals only, and not per capita figures. Once per capita figures enter the picture, there are few countries doing a worse job or having worse outcomes. And yes, our total population isn't one of the great-big-huge ones: if there were only 4 people involved, one more case would be a 25% increase, but countries with smaller populations have performed better, so that's not the driver.
We have one of the lowest per capita testing histories, we don't know what to do with people who are sick (tell them to stay at home and infect their family members: that's smart ... (but then we've fewer hospital beds available per capita than any other industrialized country -- even so, We're The Best) and then have those family members go out and do the shopping, and go visit Grannie in the Old Folks Home. Wise plan, that.
And the Big Shortfall now is what? Swabs, we're told. Swabs. That's like having a shortage of soil in a garden.
If I, an old lady with a slow computer and not much education, can find this out at home, long before people read it in the newspapers, then why are the people who inform policy not on it?
And who designed the messaging? Why was it delivered in policy jargon? In normal, on-the-street conversation, "request" means, I'm asking, but you decide; "guideline" means (like Canada Food Guides) what we would recommend: take it or leave it, it's up to you. And no one responds well to a message delivered as though from an overly patient father at the end of his tolerance to a naughty five year-old.
And even five year olds are more likely to respond well to a message that lays out the basic relevant facts informing the "request" ... as opposed to a request with no apparent reason.
I don't think people are so stupid they can't connect cause and effect with behaviour, and they shouldn't be treated as though they are. A little bit of apparent respect goes a long way.
Frankly, there needs to be an inquiry into all the shortfalls, once the dust settles.