Dr. Meena Dawar says it’s time to change our attitude toward symptoms.
Photo by Chung Chow
Local health officer stresses need for caution in ‘new paradigm’
Published 2:10 PDT, Tue May 12, 2020
With a gradual loosening of the rules coming, Richmond’s public health officer Dr. Meena Dawar warns that our attitudes toward symptoms of illness will have to change.
In the past, Canadians have prided themselves on toughing it out by going into work or school, even if they felt under the weather. That has to change, Dawar says.
At this week’s Richmond COVID-19 Community Task Force meeting, Dawar was asked how sick is too sick to go to work or school.
“As we move forward and ease restrictions, that question is essential,” she says.
She adds that 80 per cent of people with COVID-19 will have cold symptoms, a tickle in their throat or a bit of a cough. Some may have gastric symptoms or a headache, or will lose their sense of taste and smell.
That’s when to stay home—not go to work, to school or go shopping. By taking our germs outside, we risk giving them to not only co-workers or fellow students, who might get mild cases, but also to their contacts who may be elderly, overweight or have conditions like diabetes or heart disease that leave them at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
If you aren’t sure if your symptoms are from allergies, a cold, a bit of stomach flu or truly COVID-19, Dawar is clear: stay home and get your family doctor to request a nasal swab test for you.
There are enough tests to go around now, so getting a test if you have even mild symptoms gives public health and the BC Centre for Disease Control useful information on what’s happening in BC.
Virus testing is tricky because it has to be done in the short window when a person actually harbours the virus in their nasal passages, before it gets better or moves lower down in the respiratory tract. Even if the test comes back negative, Dawar suggests continuing to work from home for 10 days if you feel at all unwell.
Calling these times “a new paradigm,” Dawar says that if for some reason you cannot get a test, no matter how mild your symptoms, “then absolutely stay home.”
Even when you do return to work or school, she recommends wearing a non-medical mask that will protect others, washing hands often, and physically distancing from other workers.
Dawar warns that Richmondites still need to be careful. Stricter measures will have to be reinstated if our relaxed attitude results in more COVID-19 cases.
“Wash your hands every hour and every time you come in (from being outside),” Dawar says. “Keep your physical distance from others and absolutely don’t go out if you are sick.”
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