Stay at home; save a life

Mar 29, 2020 | In Writing

Having recently returned from the U.S., I’ve now finished my 14 days of self-isolation. Now, it’s back to work in the hospital. Over the last two weeks, I had very little sunshine. All of my food was delivered. The most difficult part of all, though, was that I missed having human contact.

Self-isolation was hard. Really hard. Yesterday, I waited by my window so I wouldn’t miss the moment when the food delivery guy dropped off my burger and salad, just so I could see another person, even if it was only for a few seconds. We waved to each other through the glass, offering a reciprocal half smile. A moment of recognition that we are in this together.

I’ve also been doing some activities that are perhaps less reflective. I started using the social media platform TikTok, taking a particular interest in the #boredinthehouse challenge. People from all around the world make funny videos of themselves bored in their houses to the tune of the same song. The lyrics are: Bored in the house and I’m in the house bored. Repeated. Ironically, watching these videos has been extremely entertaining. I made my own #boredinthehouse video, too.

Me taking up the #boredinthehouse challenge

As far as Netflix is concerned, I’m on Season 3 of This is Us. I can’t tell whether I’m crying because Kevin and Zoe might break up (he wants kids and she doesn’t) or if it’s because the world as I know it has flipped upside down. Both? It ‘s strange to be switching between using technology for entertainment then using it for webinars with other doctors from across the province about pandemic preparedness.

You may not think that following self-isolation strictly is a big deal, but it is. Self-isolation is important, even if you’re young and healthy.

Which Nova Scotians need to self-isolate
If you’ve travelled outside of Canada 
If you’ve travelled outside of Nova Scotia 
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19
If you have symptoms and you’re waiting for your COVID-19 test results to come back
If you’re in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19

Let’s take Jane Doe as an example. Jane is a 38-year-old woman who recently returned from Florida. At the airport, she’s instructed to self-isolate for 14 days. Her friend invited her over for dinner, and since it was just one friend, and Jane didn’t have symptoms, Jane thought it would be ok to go. 

Though Jane had no symptoms, she incorrectly assumed she didn’t have the infection. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, those with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. Also, people without symptoms can still pass on the virus. 

Sarah Fraser MD - COVID19

The time between exposure to the virus and developing symptoms is called the incubation period. For COVID-19, it appears that the incubation period is between 5 and 14 days, according to a study published in March. That’s why self-isolation is needed for 14 days after traveling. If you have no symptoms after Day 14, you likely don’t have an active infection. But just because you’ve finished self-isolation, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. The physical distancing rule still applies. You could still get an infection and pass it on to others.

Back to Jane. A few days after Jane arrives back from the U.S., she develops a fever and a dry cough. Her friend becomes ill, too. Not only has Jane passed on COVID-19 to her friend, but her friend has infected three people. Each of those people have infected three more. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize the potential impact. The growth is exponential. 

Jane also didn’t realize that younger people could end up in the hospital. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, approximately 12% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 were under the age of 40. (An earlier figure was estimated at 30%, but this has since been corrected).

Fast forward two weeks. Let’s say a few other people fail to take self-isolation seriously. Those of us working in the hospital (including me) now have a lot of extra patients with COVID-19. We’ll feel burnt out more easily if we are over capacity. Plus, the more people admitted with COVID-19, the easier it will be for doctors and nurses to catch it. If we catch it, we would then need to self-isolate and be away from work for two weeks. 

By staying at home, not only are you protecting healthcare workers, but you are also protecting your friends and family. You are protecting your grandmother, who would be more likely to suffer serious consequences from getting sick due to her age. You are protecting your neighbour who has a suppressed immune system due to her diabetes. We really are all in this together. The actions of one individual can determine the outcome for an entire community. As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a recent press briefing, “Go home and stay home.”

I really don’t want to get sick and have to self-isolate again. It was fun exploring TikTok and making that #boredintheouse video. But if I have to self-isolate again, I’ll probably make another one. Don’t you think my time is better spent taking care of you? 

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