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A health care worker uses hand sanitizer as they prepare for the opening of the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Park Arena in Ottawa, during a media tour in this file photo from March 13, 2020.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

COVID-19 and public health

Re Are Hospitals Equipped To Cope With COVID-19? (March 16): History and current experience with COVID-19 in several countries seem to tell us that early, comprehensive and often unpopular public health strategies are required to reduce the impact of pandemics. Failure to do so could continue to increase deaths and place a strain on our health-care system and economy. Hospitals should not be the backstop for poor planning and leadership.

We should implement more comprehensive measures to maximize social distancing – now. While we may be forgiven for being unable to predict pandemics, we should not be forgiven for a failure to respond to them.

John Granton Head, Division of respirology, University Health Network, Sinai Health System; Toronto

My life was saved by a ventilator a few years ago – no, that’s not right. My life was saved by respiratory therapists.

These are the people who monitor ventilators. They suck secretions from the tracheobronchial tree that interfere with gas transport, they titrate a patient’s need with machine delivery and they control the weaning process that is so important as a patient slowly comes off ventilator support. All the while, they are exposed to respiratory-tract contents. Also, ventilators don’t have feelings – respiratory therapists do.

So it is not a job for the faint-hearted. My gratitude and admiration go to them.

Dean Chamberlain Pulmonary pathologist, Toronto

COVID-19 and the economy

Re U.S. Fed Cuts Interest Rate To Near Zero To Support Economy (March 16): The action by five central banks, including the Bank of Canada, to shore up U.S. dollar liquidity is a clear sign that COVID-19 has infected global financial markets. Such measures are necessary, but may not be sufficient to prevent the sharp downturn turning into an outright crash.

Beyond these short-term emergency measures, lowering interest rates and quantitative easing – as practised again by the U.S. Federal Reserve in spectacular fashion – also seem unlikely to be the most efficient tools to help Canadians and Canadian businesses right now. As I have seen in the last 10 years, too little of this kind of stimulus arrives where it is actually needed; too much of it drives up asset prices, which benefits the rich. Instead, the Bank of Canada should consider direct cash transfers to Canadian households and encourage targeted lending to Canadian businesses.

Peter Dietsch Montreal

Is this the time to resurrect the custom of noblesse oblige, the responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility toward those less privileged? Should CEOs and their senior teams sacrifice a portion of their salaries to share with employees, rather than lay them off or send them to a strained government for employment insurance? Should shareholders hold on to their losses until the recovery from COVID-19, rather than abandon companies at these times?

They should all be noble and do this!

Susan Waterfield Toronto

Re Small Businesses React Swiftly To Pandemic (Report on Business, March 16): COVID-19 is impacting businesses across all industries. As restrictions are implemented, we should remember that they may most significantly impact small businesses.

The tanking financial markets will restrict capital that is available for investment. When conferences are cancelled or travel bans are implemented, most places and airlines are not offering refunds, only credits for future services or travel, which does not help the impact on cash flow. And self-isolation will reduce market spending.

Large companies can get bailouts or have cash reserves to survive tough times. Small businesses do not have these protections. As an entrepreneur, I am concerned. I hope that the global population will be immunized from this threat soon. Inoculating the global economy from the fallout may be far more difficult.

Gavin Armstrong President and CEO, Lucky Iron Fish; Toronto

COVID-19 and travel

Re Airlines Still Offering Discounts, Posting Ads As Travellers Told To Stay Home (Report on Business, March 16): I was supposed to travel to Las Vegas. Instead I went online and cancelled my flight, hotel, car and round of golf. Many will be applauding my decision to not travel. All I feel is shame that I gave into the fear around COVID-19, that I took the easy way out.

I know what the internet response to my shame is: “You’re an idiot. There is no way a trip to Las Vegas is essential during an outbreak.” However, I’m conscious of the fact these cancellations have economic costs. The union for WestJet flight attendants is discussing layoffs. In Las Vegas, casinos and restaurants are closing. In New York, Broadway is dark. Sports leagues at all levels are dark. Locally, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, which has run for more than 50 years, is cancelled.

We are doing serious economic damage here. In the movie The Big Short, the filmmakers say that a 1-per-cent rise in the unemployment rate can lead to tens of thousands of deaths. If we win the battle with the virus but lose more lives to economic dislocation, then did we really win?

By cancelling my trip, am I just downloading deaths onto the most economically vulnerable?

Ian Lim Waterloo, Ont.

COVID-19 and community

Re Canada, We Will Survive This Crisis Together (March 16): Our church has responded to the pandemic virus by suspending church service and going online and, in doing so, increasing our connection to others. At the service, we named these 10 commandments as a way of being a community together despite social distancing. I wonder if these might be helpful for folks regardless of perspective:

  • 1. Wash your hands.
  • 2. Don’t panic.
  • 3. Don’t profit from panic or hoarding.
  • 4. Don’t be racist.
  • 5. Provide for the vulnerable or isolated.
  • 6. Respect those on front lines.
  • 7. Go for a walk.
  • 8. Love and check in on your neighbours.
  • 9. Avoid negative social media, provide hopeful messages.
  • 10. Breathe deeply – from a distance.

In this time of crisis, perhaps we can deepen connections by widening our care and love for strangers.

John Pentland Reverend, Hillhurst United Church; Calgary

COVID-19 and social distancing

Re How To Get Social Distancing Right In The COVID-19 Outbreak (March 14): Social distancing? Better “healthy spacing.”

John Hunter London, Ont.

Isn’t social distancing an oxymoron? The word social implies friendly; the word distancing suggests unfriendly. Indicative of the times in which we live.

Douglas Cornish Ottawa

Two weeks at home and what should we do? I’m predicting lots of December babies.

David Moseley Uxbridge, Ont.


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