• Dr. David Terriff, MD

Balancing Risk

We are about to embark on a big experiment in Alberta and around the world.

As we begin to re-open our economies we are going to see more cases of COVID-19. Our collective behaviour of physical distancing, washing our hands regularly and staying home when we are sick has flattened the curve and saved thousands of lives but the curve will not stay flat if we go back to our normal behaviour.


We are not out of the woods, but this can be a manageable societal problem. Flattening the curve does not mean that the coronavirus has gone away. What it means is that we have reduced transmission of the virus to a level where our healthcare system can manage and appropriately care for people that get sick. There are going to be more waves of the coronavirus and transmission of the virus could rise significantly again if we aren't vigilant as a society.


It is critically important that we continue to follow the advice of our public health professionals. They are highly trained individuals who looks after the health of whole populations. They know what they are doing and we need to listen to them. The only reason that Alberta did not have a massive deluge of infections that overwhelmed our healthcare system is because our public health professionals acted quickly and our politicians and society listened. The pandemic can become a manageable problem if we continue to listen to the advice our public health leaders.


Our economies need to re-open for many reasons but this comes at the risk of more viral transmission. It will be a fine balance. Our collective behaviour will determine whether our health care system will become overwhelmed in the future. During a pandemic each persons behaviour has an impact on everyone else in society. We are literally all in this together and we all need to fight this pandemic together. It is our collective responsibility to continue keep the curve flat because it will not stay flat if we don't strictly follow the public health guidelines as our economy re-opens. The only way that this pandemic will go away is if there is an effective vaccine developed or around 70% percent of us get the virus and become immune to re-infection.


There is hope that a vaccine could be found within the next 18 months. There is an unprecedented effort of collaboration to find a vaccine and there is promising new research coming out every day. Researcher and companies have also changed how they are doing vaccine development to speed up the process. Here is an article about one promising vaccine being developed: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52483359


Alberta has released a new contact tracing app that will play a vital role in tracking those people who might have come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus. This app and its later versions will dramatically help public health officials do their job. Apple and Google are working collaboratively to allow contract tracing apps to run in the background so that they don't have to be open all the time. Many people are concerned about privacy issues with the app, but it is important to consider that we freely give Apple and Google far more information about our lives for them to sell and use to advertise to us just by owning a phone. The contract tracing app will only be an effective tool if we all use it. This kind of technology is going to be critical to quickly containing outbreaks and not overwhelming our health care system.


I encourage everyone to download the contract tracing app. To learn more about it follow this link: https://www.alberta.ca/ab-trace-together.aspx


Remember that our collective behaviour will determine how we manage this pandemic. The most effective way to manage the pandemic is to follow the advice of our public health leaders. They are doing an amazing job!

We are together in this. Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. -- Nelson Mandela     Source: mandela.gov.za/