COVID-19 insights: Mayor's Message V

On Wednesday I attended a Zoom conference with Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, President and CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. He made many interesting points which I will share.

First, the number of new daily cases is falling almost everywhere in Montreal. He showed some graphs which were released later that day. You can see them here. The data will be updated weekly. So far there is no graph for Hampstead as we have under 50 cases and no deaths.


Second, the value of the swab testing for COVID-19 is minimal. The false positives and false negatives are not insignificant. In addition, a negative test result today does not mean you won’t catch it tomorrow. The JGH has just gotten the new machine for doing serology blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies. It is being validated now and then will be used first on staff, maybe their families next, and then the general public. This will be much more useful than the swab tests. However, we do not know if the presence of antibodies means a person can not get re-infected nor how long the protection may last.


Third, the mortality from COVID-19 is about 0.5% while from the flu it is 1% - 3%. However, note that COVID-19 is much more contagious than the flu, there is no treatment that works for everyone and the death rate is skewed towards the elderly. There is also no vaccine and will not likely be one for 12 months or longer.


What can we do?


As I noted in my last message, the peak or just past the peak (as we appear to be now) is when you have the greatest chance of getting COVID-19. Do NOT relax your guard. In a month it may be safe to relax but not now.

Should I wear gloves? I don’t. They do nothing if you touch your face with the virus on the gloves. The key is not touching your face (including the eyes). If the gloves remind you to not touch your face OK but you must remove the gloves from the inside out, dispose into a garbage can directly and wash your hands. PLEASE DO NOT DROP YOUR GLOVES ON THE GROUND. It is disgusting and our beautiful town is littered with these gloves.

Should I wear a mask? Every person has to make his/her own decision. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Chief provincial health officer of BC, has stated that your chance of catching COVID-19 outside is “infinitesimally small.” I have heard the same from many other doctors and scientists. My wife and I do not wear masks when walking around Hampstead but we always wear masks when going inside stores or walking in heavily congested areas, even outside. Masks are mainly effective in protecting others in case you unknowingly have the virus. Nevertheless, they do provide some protection for the wearer.

I see so many people wearing masks but they pull them down and then raise them again or fiddle with them. This leads to touching the face and increasing the chance of being infected. If you wear a mask, put it on and leave it alone until you come home.

Should I stay home as much as possible? The older you are, or if you have underlying vulnerability, the more advisable this is BUT you can go for walks. You can meet people outside as long as you maintain the 2-metre distancing. There are risks in life. Individuals choose to ride motorcycles, skydive and smoke. All are risky but each of us needs to balance the risk benefit equation and make his/her own choice.


Be safe. Be well.