‘All it takes is one slip’: Impassioned pleas from the coronavirus front lines

The number of deaths from the new coronavirus has topped 10,000 around the world, as of March 20, with more and more countries closing their borders and encouraging people to stay indoors.

And while the risk remains low in Canada, health officials — including chief public health officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam — say social distancing to help flatten the curve is crucial. Don’t want to read about the scary truths? Fine, tweeted Ottawa doctor Yoni Freedhoff: “I promise to (share less scary truths) when everyone stays the f–k home.”

And yet, despite those calls, confusion, uncertainty and — in some cases — ignorance continue to flourish. People continue to make playdates and dinner dates, some have not cancelled their spring break plans, and some still packed the streets in full force to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Here are some of the more impassioned pleas health-care workers have made to try to make me, you, and every single person take action.


Exhausted and anxious, but trying to stay positive

Health-care providers are “exhausted, anxious and scrambling” to deal with COVID-19, says Dr. Brett Belchetz, an emergency room physician in Toronto.

“We are a little bit terrified every time we go to work,” he said.

So far, things feel “eerily similar” to the SARS outbreak, he says, but there are important differences the public needs to know: on an individual basis, this virus isn’t as bad, but on a systemic basis? It’s much, much worse. And part of that is because you can be asymptomatic and still spread COVID-19.

“Facilities weren’t built to isolate the volume of cases,” Belchetz says.

“All it takes is one slip-up… one patient who has COVID-19 who we just don’t identify as likely to have it who gets in a room with lots of other patients.”

For attempting to warn the world, they were reprimanded

Dr. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, was one of the first to warn Chinese authorities about the emerging threat of the novel coronavirus.

Wenliang, who was working in Wuhan, was reprimanded by local authorities for allegedly spreading rumours after reporting in December about a number of cases of pneumonia that appeared to be linked to a local seafood market.

He died in early February, before the spread of COVID-19 prompted widespread shutdowns around the world. The World Health Organization tweeted its condolences, saying “we all need to celebrate” the work he did on the novel coronavirus.

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