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COVID-19

ZDoggMD: Stop Living in Fear of COVID

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From ZDoggMD

Our pandemic response has generated untold fear and untold harm to our most vulnerable communities. Here’s a possible way out.

Dr. Monica Gandhi is a UCSF professor of Medicine in the division of HIV, infectious diseases, and global medicine. Her current research involves masks and their effects on COVID disease severity.

Here’s our prior interview on her mask hypothesis.

In this interview we talk about the effects masks and mask mandates may have (distinguishing correlation from causation), masks and herd immunity, how our current climate of fear has punished poor people, the “strata of fear” that your social group resides in, and much more.

The last 2 1/2 minutes of this interview reframe the entire message so poignantly…please watch and share with those both in, and out, of your “strata of fear”…

Alberta

‘Dealing with a lot:’ Suicide crisis calls mount during COVID-19 pandemic

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CALGARY — Hannah Storrs has needed to take more breaks than usual during her shifts on a 24-hour crisis line as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies the struggles of those reaching out for help.

Distress Centre Calgary says suicide-related calls, texts and chats were up 66 per cent in October compared with the same month in 2019.

Of the more than 4,800 interactions last month, nearly one-quarter dealt with suicide. That could mean someone contemplating ending his or her life or an attempt in progress.

“We’re seeing it more back-to-back rather than the odd one here and there that is more intense,” says Storrs, the centre’s crisis team lead.

“People are dealing with a lot right now. They’re dealing with isolation. They’re dealing with mental health issues. They’re dealing with financial issues on top of being just scared of what can happen in the world.”

Storrs says calls, where there is an imminent risk, are in the minority and emergency services are only called in rare cases. Most often she and her colleagues help people develop a plan that will get them through the moment.

The work is more emotionally draining now than it was before the pandemic, she says. She makes sure to take breaks to calm herself after tough calls — something the centre encourages along with extra debriefing time.

“We can’t help other people if we’re not helping ourselves first, especially being on the lines.”

She says she didn’t realize it was taking a toll until she found herself feeling frustrated and ruminating about calls after work, wondering what more she could have done to help.

It has also been physically exhausting.

“Honestly, after a shift, I would just have to go take a nap. I’d be tired.”

Diane Jones Konihowski, the distress centre’s director of fund development and communications, says suicide-related calls were also rising over the summer, which was a concern because it was still nice outside.

“We assume that those numbers and percentages are going to go up as we get into — 20 C, we get into the ice and snow, where people are really not going out as much as they normally do.”

The Canada Suicide Prevention Service, a national network of crisis lines, says there’s been a 200 per cent increase in calls and texts between October 2019 and the same month this year.

People in crisis call a centralized line, which routes them to a distress centre in their community.

While volumes have gone up, there has not been a parallel rise in “active rescues” that require emergency intervention, says Dr. Allison Crawford, the service’s chief medical officer.

The service has added backup responders to deal with the surge, added Crawford, who is also a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Between 15 and 20 per cent of those reaching out during the pandemic have mentioned COVID-19, though the service doesn’t keep track of more specific virus-related contacts.

Crawford says that is likely to mirror the results of a series of surveys the Toronto-based centre and technology company Delvinia have done throughout the pandemic.

The most recent one with more than 1,000 respondents in September found about one-fifth were experiencing moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Eighteen per cent said they were very worried about their finances and 26 per cent said they were very worried about contracting COVID-19, or someone close to them getting sick.

Research has shown that historically there’s a link between economic downturns and increased suicides, Crawford says.

But it’s too soon to know the toll the pandemic and its associated economic strife have taken.

“We know that we’re seeing this increase in calls. We don’t yet know whether we’re experiencing an increase in actual completed suicides. There’s no evidence to this point to suggest that.”

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: Online crisisservicescanada.ca. Phone 1-833 456-4566. Text — 45645 (4 p.m. to 12 a.m. ET)

Distress Centre Calgary: Online distresscentre.com. Phone 403-266-HELP (4357)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 3, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta premier says hospitals stressed by COVID-19, more surgeries may be cancelled

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EDMONTON — Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s largest hospitals are at 91 per cent capacity due to COVID-19 cases and widespread cancellation of more non-urgent surgeries may be necessary.

“Our top 15 hospitals are increasingly under stress,” Kenney told NewsTalk 770 radio in an interview Monday.

“Ultimately, if we get more and more COVID patients in hospital, the response to open up (COVID) capacity will be widespread surgical cancellation.”

He said Alberta has 8,500 hospital beds. Some 2,400 are being set aside for pandemic patients and one-quarter of those beds will be in intensive care.

“We have a plan to get back to that level of availably given the current surge that we see,” said Kenney.

He said the crucial question is staffing.

“You can’t just snap your fingers and suddenly train and certify hundreds of additional nurses for intensive care, for example. We only have a finite number of anesthesiologists who can assist with intubation for COVID patients.”

In October, the Edmonton area began cancelling 30 per cent of non-urgent surgeries to deal with mounting COVID-19 caseloads.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, reported 1,733 new cases Monday — a one-day record — to go with 453 patients in hospital, 96 of them in intensive care. There were eight more deaths, bringing that total to 541.

Last week, Kenney announced a new round of health restrictions designed to address COVID-19 hot spots while keeping the majority of businesses and the economy going.

Among the changes, the six diners allowed per table in restaurants now have to be from the same household. Retailers have to limit capacity to 25 per cent.

The key change is that people are not supposed to hold gatherings in their homes under penalty of fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000.

Also Monday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro responded to the release of an Alberta Health Services internal memo sent out last Friday. It urged staff in Calgary hospitals to reduce use of bulk oxygen where possible due to expected constraints caused by the pandemic.

“Even as our hospitals are packed full of the critically sick, AHS is running short on oxygen,” NDP Opposition health critic David Shepherd told the house.

Not true, said Shandro. “This is a contingency plan of AHS, as they do throughout the year,” he said.

Dr. David Zygun, Edmonton zone medical director for Alberta Health Services, said the memo was part of an “anticipatory” plan to make sure there are ample resources.

“We do have an adequate oxygen supply,” he said.

The NDP also criticized Kenney for urging members of the South Asian community in Calgary to avoid extended gatherings. He said some of the highest case rates are in that community, but stayed silent on large weekend rallies protesting mandatory mask rules.

“These marches are super-spreader events,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley told Kenney. “Will you condemn these marches and the Albertans who so irresponsibly organized them?”

Kenney said it’s up to local law enforcement to hand out tickets to anyone breaking public health orders and said: “We ask Albertans to be responsible in their actions.”

Calgary police Supt. Ryan Ayliffe said there were a number of officers, wearing body cameras and taking notes to lay charges later, present during the anti-mask rallies.

“It’s my understanding some of those charges were going to be laid this morning,” said Ayliffe, who added that the focus is on organizers and flagrant rule-breakers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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