The tension between the choice to ensure the highest level of safety for citizens against Covid-19 infection and the desire to keep the people and the economy able to function as much as possible is a challenge for all leaders and decisions makers.
The problem is that most political leaders have been reluctant to take the aggressive steps shown in a few countries to actually control the risk of infection. At the same time, they have not provided the public (individuals, families, businesses) the detailed information needed to be fully engaged in minimizing their own infection risk either. The real power to deal with spread and risk is to be informed, to focus and to decide locally.
The goal must be to ensure that we all have the information we need to be able to make effective decisions to do our part in dealing with the Covid19 pandemic.
We all need to be thinking about and acting in a way that minimizes the risk of infection individually, with our families and friends and also where we work or need to interact with others.
Good people, with good information, make good decisions
What if we all had accurate, continuous and immediate information about new positive cases of Covid-19 in or near “our bubble”? The information must include the Who, When and Where in enough detail for us to act on it.
What if we knew locally who was testing positive (and could add our own names if we were) so that everyone that knows us could do their own contract tracing (especially now that the government system isn’t able to do it) and make the best decisions with respect to our own risk. These decisions would be by friends, acquaintances, parents and schools, co-workers, employers and families.
Time is critical in order to take quick action to control the spread. It is already difficult to get ahead of infections when it seems there is a gap in time from infection to the onset of symptoms.
What if along with increased testing capacity, public test results reporting became almost immediate on test completion? Hours not days later.
What if the postal code where the positive cases reside was provided as well. The smaller the area identified, the greater the potential effectiveness in people taking it seriously and making their own decisions against the risk of spread. Naming regions including thousands of square miles or city districts of thousands or even tens of thousands of people is not useful information for anyone to act effectively on.
What if we knew at the same time how many tests have been done in that specific area and of those, how many have been positive?
What if this summary reporting was done daily, reporting on a rolling period of 3 weeks to provide any indication of trends.
Additional information desired
Months ago, the Alberta government indicated that they would be aggressively (a leading jurisdiction) in antibody testing.
What if there also was coincidental reporting on an active antibody testing in each reporting area. Wouldn’t this information be very useful for anyone who is trying to make decisions around minimizing risk either as individuals or as businesses?
Strengthening the pandemic control team – Family doctors
What if family doctors were to become a key part of the pandemic control team by being provided the latest in rapid testing kits for use with their patients. The quick local answers and advice from a respected source would be effective locally. Wouldn’t there be benefit in having families work locally with their doctors to check on their health, including false Covid alarms, rather than be required to go to a different location where many potential Covid cases must go to be tested? Wouldn’t this specific information on this local testing and results reported provide additional evidence on which to make the broader decisions to reduce the infection rate?
Motivating those who are not following risk-reducing steps to consider changing their behaviour
What if those that consciously choose not to follow the public health restrictions to reduce the risk of infection and of spreading the Covid-19 virus had their own public health insurance coverage cancelled in the same way that insurance companies do not cover impaired drivers.
What if those people that blatantly and publicly refuse to follow these restrictions became potentially liable for the costs of the treatment and the damage to the health of those that became infected as a result.
The challenge is ours
To control the spread of Covid-19 requires personal action. It also requires people working together, as families, as organizations with their members, as family doctors partnering with their patients and as employees and employers, to keep people as safe as possible. All of these people need complete quick and accurate information to work from.
Governments’ responsibility goes beyond talking about overarching goals. It requires informing all of us promptly and completely. Political pronouncements have little credibility. Politicians are too far away from individuals, families, organizations and working teams to make the right decisions for these people. If there is a priority to keep people working (and there should be), it is through making sure all of the information needed to arm each of us to make our best decisions is provided quickly and completely to us. Businesses want to keep their teams and their customers safe. Their decisions will help contribute to everyone’s safety. The same is true of organizations, of schools, churches and many other parts of society. Governments must recognize that it is going to take a team effort, listening to, enabling and supporting the team to make the progress necessary to ensure the people and the economy are as safe as possible. Information is a powerful enabler when it is actionable locally. The government and health agencies must provide this information to arm us in this battle that we all need to help win.