Pandemic: Time for reflection

By Barbara Catt

Pandemic!  This is our reality here and now.  Here and now Infection Prevention and Control Professionals are essential and necessary in healthcare and industry and asked to be leaders at the table for so many decisions.  Decisions and constant questions such as what isolation precautions are required; what personnel protective equipment is needed to keep staff safe; can we reprocess our N95 respirators; and so on.

Reflecting on the initial early news back in December 31st, 2019 (feels like ages ago) about a pneumonia-like illness of an unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China, my early thoughts were, “it must be a coronavirus much like the 2003 SARS virus”.  On January 12th, China shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus so that countries could prepare and develop specific diagnostic kits.  As more cases appeared and transmission was apparent, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30th, 2020 in order to support countries with weaker health systems.   Who knew we would reach close to three million cases globally and we are still counting!

In February, I was away in Nairobi, Kenya, working with colleagues, teaching IPAC and ensuring that they too have safe donning and doffing techniques as they were getting prepared for COVID-19 cases.  Fortunately, my colleagues and I were able to make it home safely and luckily we did not receive notifications from local public health authorities that our flight was one of many reported to have a person with COVID-19 on board.

What is our new norm?  Well currently, I am one of many who work from home as I know some of you are too.  What does this mean?  It means longer hours because we are being reactive to the multiple demands of what is needed and/or requested from teams as well as from stakeholders.  However, there are many of you who have rolled up your sleeves and are working in the trenches with many of those frontline workers.  This brings a new level of anxiety as you consider how it will affect your family/friends and those with whom you reside in your household.

Keeping up with the science in these times can be a challenge and yet, this is becoming increasingly important with the many discussions and decisions.  Every day, there are more and more scientific papers “hot off the press” and it becomes difficult to sort through what is good science and what is not. For example some papers have a clear focus on Ebola measures which is so different then the science with this coronavirus.  This is when it is important to reach out to our local scientists, research coordinators and perhaps even within our network of Infection Prevention and Control Professionals.  Your frontline workers depend on you to provide your rationale and/or the science behind some of these difficult decisions.

We are in this together, so if you are in need of support here are a couple of suggestions:

Also at this time, I want to express and commend the reaction and communication from our national leaders such as Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and Patty Hajdu the Minister of Health.  They, and others provincial and territorial leaders, have shown stellar responses and did not sway from the science of COVID-19.  Canadian leadership has been impressive and again responding to the science.  It has been extremely important that we all take a responsibility and follow the guidance and advice from what our leaders are telling us.  “STAY HOME” for example to flatten our Canadian curve is working when you compare the numbers with so many other countries.

And finally, great news!  Canada’s income tax deadlines have been delayed to June 1st, 2020.

My final words – keep up the great work!  We will get through this! And WE will be a stronger as a team – The IPAC Canada Team.

Barbara Catt RN BScN MEd CIC is President of Infection Prevention and Control Canada.