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  • Writer's pictureThink Upstream

COVID-19 observations from a prominent health reporter

Globe and Mail health reporter André Picard joins us on the Plan B podcast to help us understand what’s what this pandemic is revealing to us about how we approach our wellbeing.

An elderly woman washes vegetables in a kitchen sink.

Ralph Benmergui

How are you feeling today? I hope you’re well and your loved ones are safe.

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has become a part of our lexicon. Health reporter André Picard explains that there are always viruses, bugs as it were, floating around but that this one turned out to be “sneaky.”

At first, we hoped that it could be contained in China, but as we now know, travel and ease of transmission soon changed the channel. The virus spread and tens of thousands of people have died. Sadly more will pass away.

This pandemic has become a great revealer. I asked Andre what we have learned in this unprecedented time.

He spoke of a theme that he has written about often in the Globe and Mail—the neglect of our elders. Right now older Canadians make up more than half of the deaths from COVID-19, revealing underlying structural issues in Canada’s long-term care facilities.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but underpaid staff, crowded conditions, shared rooms and bathrooms, and for-profit, long-term care facilities that prioritize profit often at the expense of people have left both the elderly and caregivers in mortal danger.

Will we change our approach to seniors’ care as a result? Will we pay a living wage to personal support workers after we stop calling them heroes? Picard points to Denmark as an example of upstream thinking.

There, you can walk down a street and see a residential home, then another, and then a seniors home, and then another residential property. Elders are integrated and part of the community; not warehoused and isolated.

On a positive note, an opportunity has opened up in the wake of COVID-19: telemedicine. It's working and can help ease the overcrowding in our emergency wards.

Also, pharmaceutical companies, research labs, and scientists around the world are cooperating, not keeping the knowledge to themselves as they unite to find a vaccine that will reduce, if not eradicate, the threat.

When will this end? According to Picard, it will be a matter of months if not years. That’s right: until we have a safe and effective vaccine—a process that takes time, brains, and lots of money—we will not be rid of this nasty and sometimes fatal virus.

Times have changed and perhaps the way we go about our lives will, too. As the virus reveals the flaws in our system, we have a chance to change things for the betterment of us all.

Ralph Benmergui is an award-winning broadcaster, host of Plan B, and a sudden homeschooler who is now afraid of going to the grocery store.

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.


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