There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for Canada, one infectious disease expert’s told a group in Guelph Wednesday.
The Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium hosted Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the University of Toronto, for a virtual Q&A session on Zoom to talk about the current state of Canada in the pandemic and what we could expect next.
As COVID case numbers in countries like Europe, Brazil, India and the United States continue to climb, Bogoch says things will get worse before they get better.
“It (2021) will be a much better year on a global front,” he says. “As tough as it is now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Reflecting on how Canada has been handling this pandemic, he says it is doing okay so far, but will still have to be extremely careful going forward.
“We did a poor job of protecting the vulnerable of the most vulnerable among us. Any death from COVID is too many deaths.”
In the first wave of COVID, Bogoch says many vulnerable populations were overrepresented within the country’s case numbers.
Now in the second wave, homeless shelters and low income housing are areas of concern, along with how to support people with or without the virus during isolation.
“It’s way too soon to pat anyone on the back and say, ‘good job,’” he says.
Analyzing the current situations in each province, Bogoch notes some provinces are doing better than others, like Atlantic Canada, based on their geography and policies.
“Even when they get new cases, they are isolated right away,” says Bogoch.
In Ontario and Quebec, Bogoch notes both are seeing new case numbers reach 1,000 per day, which isn't great news.
“We should not get comfortable with 1,000 cases per day,” he says.
For now, new cases in Ontario are affecting younger demographics, but older age groups are at risk as the virus could move into different parts of the province.
Bogoch says testing numbers will also need to increase in Ontario.
While new cases continue to appear, Bogoch does say that hospitals in Canada are getting better at treating COVID.
He emphasizes that not everyone who develops the virus will need to go to the hospital, but for those who do, they will be treated through the use of therapeutic treatments like remdesivir and dexamethasone.
Bogoch says hospitals use both these drugs as there is reliable data to prove it is useful in fighting the infection. Dexamethasone in particular is a cheap and widely available drug for hospitals to acquire. It is also familiar to many healthcare professionals.
After speaking, Bogoch answered a series of questions from members of the rotary club, including inquiries about a COVID vaccine.
Currently, he says Canada has 50 vaccines it is looking into, 11 of which are in advanced testing stages. If all goes well, Bogoch believes a vaccine could be available by early 2021.
“Canada has done a good job in getting us access to the vaccines we need,” he says.
He adds Canada has a Vaccine Task Force, which has recently released their plans for distributing a vaccine once it is ready for widespread use.
Bogoch says these plans involve a two dose vaccine being used, with priority for people over 60 and those with medical conditions.
This means some people might have to wait before they receive a vaccine.
“Logistics for vaccinating 38 million are enormous,” says Bogoch, “It’s going to take some time.”
As Canada continues to learn more about the virus, Bogoch says people should continue to stay two metres away from each other and follow public health guidelines of wearing a mask indoors.
“We have to try and control it within the community,” he explains.
“This is a bizzare time. People are going to do what feels comfortable and what feels safe.”