A Steinbach doctor is urging people to plan to celebrate Easter in a different way this year. The holiday is traditionally one of gatherings, of bringing extended family together.
Dr. Curtis Krahn, speaking from 37-years as a doctor (not on behalf of any health organization or facility), said this is simply not the time for family functions.
"We are actually at a dangerous and unprecedented time, and my message would be this is actually the wrong time to be thinking of doing any larger gathering including even a small Easter gathering," he said. "There will be other times to get together."
Describing it as a "vulnerable time", Krahn said even small groups meeting could cause a multiplication affect as the individuals from one small group, mix with individuals in a new small group.
"All you need to have is one person that starts something off and you can start another cluster of disease right here in Southern Manitoba," he said. "That is something that we’re very much trying to avoid."
"The risks probably don’t seem to be that great for one small gathering," he added. "But the risks do multiply as people have multiple gatherings, as people transmit from one group to the next."
Krahn said the risks are higher than most people realize and said there’s probably already underlying disease in the community that we’re not aware of.
He said the social and physical distancing is exactly what’s required.
"We actually have a chance to avoid Italy, we have a chance to avoid New York City, we have a chance to avoid some of those things you are seeing on television which potentially could happen right here in Steinbach as well," he said.
Krahn said they want to avoid stressing the system, adding the people need to know one small cluster can start a tidal wave effect.
"To be honest, if we started a bit of a tidal wave here, the local medical system would not be able to handle it," he said.
Medical professionals in Italy and New York City have found themselves being forced to decide which lives to save, since there isn’t enough equipment such as ventilators to go around. "Those are the sort of bio-ethical decisions we would like to avoid," Krahn said.
Krahn urged people to get their information from credible sources, such as the province’s website, www.gov.mb.ca/covid19, and not to get excited about news sources that claim to have answers. Many of those answers aren’t well tested, are based on very small studies and may not hold up, he warned.
"Do not rely on the possibility that there will be some sort of effective treatment because I do not think that in the foreseeable future there will be effective treatment," he said. "I think we have to assume that if you get the disease it’s going to run its course and you’re going to have to take whatever comes, whether you have a mild case or whether you have a more severe case. The treatment is really just support still at this point."
Krahn said he understands why some people aren’t taking it seriously enough just yet. "I think there’s a certain amount of complacency because we’re not seeing sick people around us, we’re not seeing dying people around us and we think that we’re somehow isolated from what is happening in other parts of the world," he said. "We’re just further down the calendar than they are. If we don’t play this right, a month from now we may look like New York City, we may look like Italy."
Krahn said he’s seen health scares come and go, adding this one is different.
"This one is real, this one does have the potential to kill a lot of people and I think we need to take it seriously," he said. "In 37 years I haven’t seen anything like this at all."
Krahn said the Polio crisis in the 1950s is the most comparable to what we’re seeing now. Over a period of several years, a series of epidemics rolled over the province.
This too, won’t be over any time soon. "I think we have to be prepared that this is going to be more than just a few weeks and even more than just a few months," he said.
But there is hope. "If we can delay it coming we will be much wiser, we will be able to use our resources much better, we will be able to use the ventilators and intensive care units that we have," he said.
And while Easter is an important gathering for many, Krahn said it’s more important that families guard each other’s health so they can gather for future holidays instead.
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