How Are We Doing With COVID? A letter from Dr. Dina Kulik

Infectious Diseases

Published October 20, 2020

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since I have checked in with you all, and thought with so much misinformation, and anxiety, and confusion, this is a great time.

 

I know how stressful 2020 has been.

As a mom of four young kids, as a business owner, and as a pediatrician, I feel the same stress as you on many levels.

The good news, we will get through this.

We have all shown more resilience and perseverance and dedication in the last 7 months than we ever thought we could. Because we are parents and friends and community members, and quite frankly, we have no choice.

Parents stepped up to the plate and educated and entertained and comforted their kids during quarantine, sometimes while also working full time from home and dealing with our own anxieties. That’s what parents do. #YouGotThis.

 

Halloween As Usual?

On a happy topic, Halloween is around the corner. This was, personally, my favorite holiday as a kid.

Perhaps it won’t be celebrated as it usually is, but it will be celebrated.

Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said this week that as long as trick-or-treating is done with physical distancing, it could probably occur. It won’t look the same as in previous years, but there are still fun things to do.

 

You can check out my recommendations for Halloween fun during the pandemic here.

If you plan to go trick or treating, I recommend the following:

1. Trick or treat in small groups, ideally 5 kids or less.
2. Wear masks when you can
3. Consider wearing a mask as part of the costume.
4. Parents should wear a mask as well – and you can dress up too!
5. If you are giving out candy, consider using a ‘slide’ to do so at a distance, or some other means to stay distanced. 
6. If you live in an apartment building, go trick or treating outdoors, and avoid crowding. Trick or treating indoors is not recommended.
7. DO NOT HAVE A PARTY! Group gatherings, especially indoors, are a fantastic way to spread COVID. Don’t even think about it.

[ Download my list > 17 ways to safely celebrate Halloween ]

 

How are we doing with COVID?

When people ask me, ‘do you want the good news or bad news first?’, I usually ask for the bad news. I like to end on a high note.

The not so good news is that many, many people have been infected with COVID, and many lives have been lost, and many people who had COVID have lasting effects from it, and we aren’t sure why and who will have the same fate.

Hospitals are filling up again. ICUs are filling up again. And many of us are bracing for a scary winter with COVID and flu intermingling.

Many businesses have gone under or are at risk of going under. So many people’s blood, sweat, and tears gone. Economic uncertainty to the max.

Our educational system has shown great vulnerabilities and many kids are still not getting the education they deserve. I hear daily of virtual classes that still have not begun. And it is mid-October.

Children with developmental delays, learning challenges, visual impairment, and other vulnerabilities are at the highest risk.

We need to get our act together, now!

Our kids’ education, safety, and well-being should be at the forefront of every conversation about how to move forward in this pandemic.

The pandemic is also highlighting the many inequalities in our society.

COVID disproportionately affects socio-economically disadvantaged and/or racialized and marginalized communities. This deserves a lot more attention and planning. We cannot accept the status quo. We need action, now.

We know that indoor fitness centers pose a high risk of COVID transmission, and this is a huge bummer for our children (and us) who want and need to remain active. Outbreaks in spin studios and hockey arenas are all over the news, even if they followed strict guidelines by Public Health.

For those of you who aren’t sure these risks are real, check this out. I highly recommend you follow Ryan Imgrund, a COVID researcher, who shared this:

 

 

This shows that if you are indoor in Toronto with 25 other people, you have a 6% chance of being exposed to COVID. Up that to 250 people, and the risk is almost 50%. In Ottawa, 71%! Please avoid indoor group gatherings!

 

Let’s chat good news!

The good news is we know much more now than we did in the first wave.

We now know what the higher risk behaviors are (big groups, indoors, close together and without masks) and how COVID is spread. We know that there is a medicine, dexamethasone, that reduces the risk of death from COVID and reduces the progression to serious illness.

We have some other treatments in the pipeline (like monoclonal antibodies) and a few vaccine candidates being created and tested.

We know that kids can and do get infected with COVID, and can spread it, though not likely as ‘superspreaders’. When kids get COVID they rarely become unwell and often have no symptoms at all.

We know that those at the highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID are older adults, particularly those older than 70, and those in long-term care homes, and those with underlying risk factors such as obesity, lung disease, and diabetes.

We know that people are unfortunately most contagious BEFORE they develop any symptoms and likely 1/5 or more of people with COVID get ZERO symptoms, but they could still infect others.

This by the way is the main way COVID and INFLUENZA differ. COVID is contagious BEFORE SYMPTOMS. Flu is contagious once symptoms start.

In other words, you can get COVID from someone who looks and feels perfectly well.

 

I like to focus on silver linings.

Call me an optimist, but I do like to look for some lessons and it helps me stay positive.

1. Tons more time with family. It may feel like too much, but it is time we wouldn’t have had before. And that is a blessing.

2. Virtual care is now allowed and enables physicians and other clinicians to provide care to more people, with farther geographic reach, and in an accessible and timely way. This is something to really be excited about!

3. We are more aware of the importance of family and friends and how much we love each other. Though Zoom dates are not quite the same as one in a restaurant over drinks.

4. We are driving less.

5. Pollution is down.

6. Did I mention that we have been forced into more family time, and how incredible that has been for our kids (and parents!)?

It sucks.

We want to be normal again.

We want to see our friends and family in close proximity.

We want to eat in restaurants and play indoor sports and travel and go to concerts.

I want to do all these things.

I want my kids to experience all these things.

I want to hug my parents again. I want to hug my friends again.

 

But, all hope is not lost.

I try to focus on those silver linings and remind myself that kids are not getting very sick, and they seem to be even more resilient than adults.

When I see kids wearing masks in the office, by and large they are unbothered. It’s the adults, the parents, who are stressed about the masks and the distance.

We think about our own mask-free, non-socially distanced childhood and long for those days.

But you know what?

Our kids are living in this pandemic, and they are rolling with the punches. Quite well I must add.

Let’s learn from their flexibility and strength – maybe that’s another silver lining right there!

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy Fall, and I’ll be back soon for more updates.

XO
Dr. Dina

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About Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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