LETTERS: Queries on COVID best answered by health providers

With the arrival of February and winter, it’s not surprising COVID fatigue is also on the rise.

While most are staying strong, knowing we’re protecting ourselves, our families and community, for a small group of individuations, no argument, data or evidence will convince them of the seriousness of this Pandemic.

To those who still unsure, let me present data – facts if you choose to believe in science about why you really, really, do not want COVID.

In the months since this pandemic began there’s been a significant increase in deaths- 20 -75 per cent more deaths around the world from all causes. Of these extra deaths, 50-70 per cent are directly connected to having COVID. The other 30 -50 per cent occurred because of delays in treatment – from COVID anxiety, limited resources and overtaxed health care systems. So yes – not all deaths are from COVID but because of the pandemic significantly more people died last year. If you are grieving loss does it really matter if they died of COVID or indirectly because of it? My personal sympathies go out to all who have lost loved ones, especially the family of the 19 year old young man who died in Ontario recently after acquiring COVID while working in a long-term care facility.

While most people who have COVID don’t die, surviving COVID infection is often the beginning rather than end. In patients who were hospitalized with COVID, 30 per cent were readmitted to hospital within six months and a further 12 per cent died-a far greater number than any respiratory infections. COVID affects every organ so even patients with mild or asymptomatic infection are developing new health and respiratory problems. A less reported but equally concerning effect of COVID is almost 25 per cent of survivors develop some neurologic or psychiatric problem including sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression and for a small number – psychosis and schizophrenia. Many non-hospitalized patients continue to have severe fatigue months after their initial infection, preventing them from returning to everyday activities. We have now identified more than 750 000 cases of COVID in Canada. Given our limitations on testing there are likely more who were not identified but are now suffering the lingering effects. These COVID “survivors” are going to add challenges to our over-taxed health system.

The new UK variant circulating in our communities is another game changer. Even if it’s not more deadly, being 50 per cent more transmissible means we may soon see 25x more cases, 25x more deaths and 25x more survivors with long term health problems. It also means 25 x more people unable to resume their previous lives. Consider the physical and mental burden COVID has placed on our healthcare workers. Many are COVID survivors and have been affected by the stress and anxiety of fighting both the pandemic and trying to ensure safe and effective health care for non-infected individuals. On top of this, they are having to fight the rising infodemic – the misinformation, conspiracy theories and COVID deniers. How many of our health care workers will continue working once they see us through this pandemic?

We are at a critical point. Variants are circulating. This virus has proven its ability to adapt and change at lightning speed and in ways our own natural immunity cannot recognize. Fortunately, we will soon have help from vaccines that will prime our immune systems and get them ready to respond. Many of the vaccines currently available and in clinical trials are designed so they can be rapidly readjusted when needed. Are these vaccines 100 per cent safe? Of course not – everything in life comes with some degree of risk but they’re probably 99 per cent safer than taking your chances with COVID. My family and I are anxiously awaiting our vaccinations. Until then, we will continue to follow public health guidance and stay home for all but essential trips, ensure we are wearing masks effectively and keep our hands and other points of contact clean.

If you have questions about God talk to a Priest, Rabbi or other expert in religion. If you have questions about COVID, vaccines or health in general – please talk to a trusted health care provider.

Dr. Kristin Morrison F.R.C.P.C Prince Edward County