Don’t break the rules during Christmas, pleads B.C. doctor working in COVID-19 ward

When Dr. Kevin McLeod’s wife and four kids open their presents Christmas morning, there’s a good chance he won’t be there.

The physician is on call 24 hours a day at the COVID-19 ward at North Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital’s this week.

He is pleading with the public to forgo family gatherings over the holidays.

With new case numbers dropping, B.C. has a chance to either lock in those gains or undo all the hard work, McLeod said.

Read more: 10-year-old B.C. girl finally home after fighting rare syndrome linked to COVID-19

“I know there’s gonna be people who say, ‘Hey, we’re going to break the rules, we’ll be OK, we’ll do it quietly,’ but really, it’s the wrong thing to do,” he said Wednesday.

“If we screw this up over the holidays, then you can predict … we’re going to extend this stuff in to January. If we can get a handle on this, we have a much higher chance of getting back to a semblance of normal.”

As of Tuesday, there were 357 British Columbians in hospital with COVID-19 — 84 of them in critical or intensive care.

Those patients are on top of the usual care that hospitals provide for heart attacks, car crashes and other emergencies.

Read more: B.C. flattening the COVID-19 curve but not out of ‘danger zone’: modelling

While just two to four per cent of COVID-19 cases end up in hospital, McLeod said, that can be enough to overwhelm the system if cases spike again.

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COVID patients are particularly resource-intensive with most staying in hospital for weeks, he said. Some at Lions Gate have been there for more than 100 days, he added.

“You can imagine if we said, ‘You know what, forget it. No more distancing, let’s just have a great Christmas’ (and) let everybody do whatever they want,” he said.

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“If you suddenly have 10,000 people a day getting diagnosed with COVID, well, it’s simple math. There’s 200 to 400 people getting admitted every day.”

Many who do contract the virus, particularly younger people, may be asymptomatic or show very mild symptoms. But they can still spread the virus easily.

And the risk goes up at an indoor family gathering where people are unable to maintain distancing or are sharing a table and food, McLeod said.

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He’s asking British Columbians to think not about themselves, but who they could pass the virus on to or who those people may be in contact with.

“You don’t just spread it to that one person,” he said. “Then that person spreads it. You don’t know who they’re going to see — if they have some elderly relative or something else.”

Read more: If you have 1 of these 4 symptoms get a COVID-19 test right away, says B.C.’s top doctor

He said he also hope people will think about health-care workers, like the nurses and cleaning staff who have been working flat out for close to a year. Many of them will at wok and missing their families on Christmas Day.

“It sucks being locked down. I feel that in my own household, I feel that in my own family. (But) it really is the right thing to do,” he said.

“Zoom with your family. Have the phone call. Say we’re going to get together in January or some later time. Plan to keep your tree up a little longer.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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