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LETTER: Lower Mainland doctors urge province to step up COVID-19 measures

"While some measures have already been taken to reduce spread, we need to do more."
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Photo: Tube containing a swab sample that has tested positive for COVID-19/Shutterstock

Doctors from across the Lower Mainland have come together in a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry to urge the province to step up containment measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The letter, dated March 20, reads:

Dear Dr. Bonnie Henry,

At this time, there are over 259,314 cases of COVID-19 worldwide with over 11,286 dead. The death toll in Italy alone has risen by 627 in one day, with over 4,000 dead overall. B.C. is following the same trajectory that Italy did. We need to act quickly and decisively to contain this virus by closing non-essential businesses and enforcing the critical need for social distancing before it is too late.

In Italy and other places across the European Union, doubling times of 3-4 days for numbers of infected patients have overwhelmed health care systems. This is preventable. In spite of initial widespread infection, other countries such as South Korea have reduced their doubling time to approximately 14 days. This has been achieved through early education, transparency, social distancing and testing. 

In British Columbia, our approximate doubling times are in the 3-4 day range, similar to Italy. As you know, [Friday] alone there were 77 new cases, 10 of which are currently in critical care units. We need to act now​to prevent a catastrophic number of preventable deaths. At our current rate of spread, our hospitals will be overwhelmed within a few weeks without drastic action. We must slow the community spread of COVID-19 in B.C. 

Many concerned physicians across the Lower Mainland are working tirelessly to overcome shortages in staffing and resources; however, we will lose this battle unless we act immediately to contain this virus in the community. By acting now, we can reduce the doubling times and flatten the curve to prevent our health care system from being overrun.

While some measures have already been taken to reduce spread, we need to do more.  We urge you to implement stronger containment measures and education in the community. The city of Toronto has also called for closures of non-essential businesses. Similar to Prince Edward Island​​ and several states like California, Illinois and New York, non-essential businesses in B.C. should be closed. Public parks and beaches must enforce social distancing or shutdowns given the number of people gathering closely in these areas. We must limit visitors in hospitals to try to prevent the spread in hospitals. Campaigns to increase public awareness of the importance of social distancing can help reduce transmission of disease and flatten the curve. These measures are critical to reduce the spread of cases in the community.

Tragically, Italy has had to choose who can receive intensive medical care based on age and risk profile; please do not force us to implement similar policies here as our hospitals become overrun. A community lockdown may seem drastic, but experiences throughout the rest of the world clearly demonstrate how critical it is to act decisively and urgently. 

Physicians across the Lower Mainland pledge to serve British Columbians to the best of our ability in this unprecedented time.  We urge you to implement these measures now​so that we stand a fighting chance. Together, we can help prevent hundreds or even thousands of unnecessary deaths. 

Read more from the Vancouver Courier