Mayor's message I : A culture of following rules

Dear friends and residents,

Most days you will get a message from our Director General, Richard Sun, explaining what Hampstead and Quebec are doing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. I approve these messages but my message today is to explain how I see the big picture. My goal is to put the situation in perspective, share some things that may be somewhat instructive and to try to explain why following the social distancing, isolation and hand washing guidelines is so important.

Looking at the situation in three countries may be instructive. My wife and I were planning a trip to Japan in April which we have postponed till the Fall but I was following the progression in Japan carefully. It started much earlier in Japan than in most of the world but it appears to have peaked and it is growing at a much slower rate than in Canada and the US. At one point Japan had more cases than most countries but now it is way down the list. Why? Japan’s population is more than three times that of Canada but Canada now has more cases. Further, Japan’s population is crammed into a much smaller area than Canada’s and that leads to a higher rate of spread. Both Canada and Japan closed schools and adopted social distancing measures at about the same time in the course of the epidemic. So what is the key that has led to such success in Japan?

My theory is that the Japanese have a culture of following rules. It is almost an obsession. So when the government told the people to stay home, wash hands, self isolate, etc. The people listened and obeyed the directives. It worked.

Now let us compare Canada and the US. In both countries the epidemic started at the same time. In both countries similar measures to flatten the curve were taken at about the same time. Initially the number of cases per million was similar in the two countries but then it started to climb much faster in the US. Today the rate per million is more than double that of Canada and the gap is growing. Part of the reason is that the US is denser than Canada but I don’t think that is the whole reason. Canadians are not as obedient as the Japanese but they do follow rules more than Americans.

So my conclusion is that if we want a faster end to this crisis, we must be more like the Japanese and less like the Americans. We must rigorously stay home except for essential trips. Cancel appointments, have food and medications delivered. Wash hands as often as possible. Do it for yourselves and your loved ones. Do it for the economy because the economy and stock markets won’t come back till the crisis is ending.

This message is getting long so I will end it and send a second message in a few days on why things may not be as bad as you think. Meantime, please follow the guidelines as rigorously as the Japanese. We will all benefit and potentially hundreds or thousands of lives could be saved.



Mayor's message II: Epidemics always come to an end


When I wrote a couple of days ago I compared Japan, Canada and the US. My point was that if Canadians behaved like the Japanese and observed all the rules rigorously we would have far less cases of COVID-19 and many fewer people would die. That remains true and crucial but I promised some reassuring news.

First, do not believe the media when they paint a very dark picture. They always assume the worst in order to have the most dramatic story. Last week they were saying that when the pandemic peaked we would not have enough ventilators, masks, hand sanitizers, gowns and other supplies. Now we know that car manufacturers are retooling plants to produce ventilators, textile manufacturers are making masks, Labatt’s will be producing hand sanitizer which will not smell like beer. The list goes on. Solutions to double or triple hospital beds are also in the works. I would not want to be in New York City right now but in the rest of North America and more so in Canada, we should be fine eventually.

You have heard that this new Coronavirus is very contagious because no one has immunity. That is true but you can’t get the virus if you stay home and practice all the measures to keep you safe. Further, as people are getting the virus they develop immunity and two weeks after recovery can no longer be vectors for transmission to others. That is why epidemics always come to an end. Also be aware that the vast majority of people who get the virus will have mild or no symptoms, others will have more severe symptoms but will recover on their own. Only a small number will need to be hospitalized.

But what if you are elderly or have certain underlying conditions which would make the virus much more serious? Previously there were no cures and that was scary. However, doctors around the world are doing research and a number of drugs are promising. Perhaps the most promising is hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and rheumatoid arthritis. It is generally safe, inexpensive and, most importantly, it has been effective in limited trials with patients. More testing will be required to find the optimum dosage and conditions for use but the drug has great potential. JAMP Pharma based in Boucherville is producing a million doses for distribution at no charge to Canadian hospitals. There are other drugs and drug combinations that show promise in early trials as well.

I know some of you are complaining that this isolation and change of our usual routines is hell. Have we become such a pampered society that we can’t handle a little deprivation? Previous generations had to deal with WWII and the Great Depression before that. Many of us, not all, live in big beautiful homes with every modern convenience. We can handle these inconveniences and we will be better for it.

Yes, I know that there are serious economic hardships for some of you but the Federal and Quebec governments are introducing measures to cushion the blow. This short term pain is absolutely necessary to come out of this in weeks rather than months. However, everyone must do his/her part.

Things which cause the greatest fear are those over which we have no control. Some of you may say, “How can I have any control over something which I can’t see and which could be anywhere?” In fact, you can and do. Stay home, cancel appointments, do not have visitors, have deliveries left at your door. Remove and discard the packaging and wash your hands again thoroughly. Call Hampstead if you need information or help. Go for walks but stay 6 feet from others (excepting a partner that lives with you). My wife and I went for a walk today and almost everyone was following the social distancing rules. There were more walkers than cars. Do all this and your chances of getting the COVID-19 virus will be extremely minimal. If everyone follows the rules, this will end sooner than you think. So do this for yourself, your loved ones and all of society.


Be safe.