We’ve flattened the curve, now what?

Back in February, when the virus was quickly spreading and becoming a global problem, we didn’t want to believe in anything and often weren’t ready to accept the changes forced on us.

Now it seems that everything is possible, from conspiracy through this new reality to science-fiction scenarios, and it seems that it's almost impossible to take us by surprise. Unless of course, we spoil it all ourselves.

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We’ve come long way through the fast-changing life. We’ve flattened the curve, just as we wanted to, and started getting back on track, aiming at recovering the economy. And all of a sudden, the mood all around has completely changed as if we jumped back three or four months and now don’t believe in anything again. How did that happen?

I guess many of us oversimplified this metaphor of flattening the curve and took it as our main goal, which definitely wasn’t the case. We needed to flatten the curve to be able to get back to a rearranged and safer life. We had to flatten the curve to ensure that now, when we get hit by the virus again, hospitals know how to react, where to draw specialists, that they have enough PPE and other equipment so the healthcare system doesn’t collapse when the time comes.

We were flattening the curve so we would have time to redesign the communities we live in, which now have hand sanitizers everywhere, in which we have access to masks where they are needed to protect us. We took this time to ensure that we can still properly operate and wouldn’t need to hide in our homes like in the castles in the world, where COVID-19 is unleashing.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, who is an American infectious disease and public health physician, and the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that this time was also needed to develop and strengthen what he calls a box-it-in approach, which consists of testing, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine – the four pillars of successful resistance to the pandemic. Getting back to life is crucially important now, but containing all cases, clusters and outbreaks in a fast and sufficient manner is as important to keep the life going.

The Maple Creek Hutterite colony cluster response will show how much we have progressed in applying the box-it-in approach. If the healthcare system acts rapidly, extensively and successfully so it at least doesn’t spill into other communities, then we are ready to get back to life, in which we not only can go to work but actually can do things for fun together.

And while I see the positive and needed changes in the healthcare system and its reactions, I still can’t wrap my head around the changes that I now see in public reactions.

The notion of social distance is now almost forgotten. Even those people who religiously stayed home now hug and kiss without questioning the level of risk, as if the deadly virus disappeared from the face of Earth. People who were terrified of going to grocery stores are now talking about taking a train to Vancouver to hang out there. Nothing is wrong with either, but it almost seems that people forgot why they were scared just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the virus hasn’t forgotten about us yet. 

It amazes me to still hear the talks about the virus non-existing, being a “planned operation” or about the media hyping the situation. I don’t have enough fingers anymore to count all the people I personally know who are or were officially sick with COVID-19. Some of them were in hospitals, others stayed at home. Some managed it quite well, while others are still fighting their battle. None of them said it was easy.

Fortunately, I don’t know anyone who died yet, and I sincerely hope that I won’t lose anyone to the disease. But at this time, I don’t have any doubts about how real this problem is. And I don’t have any doubts about how much trouble it creates and how much risk it poses on any community, where many members get sick at the same time.

Yes, you may not know of people in our closest surroundings who were or are sick, but Saskatchewan is huge and widespread. Just look a bit further than your own community and you’ll find many stories told by all types of sources about what it’s like in places that were hit by the virus. Not all places have flattened the curve. Some really simple things become essential and systems can’t meet the demand and start struggling all over the world.

Some of us hope for a vaccine or a cure in the near future. And while I also want to believe that it will be found soon, on average it takes 10-15 years to have a vaccine on the market. So chances are there is a long road ahead of us.

We did great keeping the community safe throughout these past months. Now we need to put lives and the economy back on track, which is only possible if we don’t get flooded with new cases.

So please, please, even if you are very tired of “all that COVID thing” be smart, keep distance, maintain hygiene and make balanced decisions not to throw all we sacrificed this year out of the window.

We’ve flattened the curve, so let’s keep it that way. After all, we are the Prairies.

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