Editorial: Some ‘very good news’ about COVID on the Coast

The Sunshine Coast COVID Physician Task Force signed off this week with an update that contains a wonderful disclosure about COVID-19 on the Coast.

“Here on the Coast, we continue to see close to 40 people per day for potential COVID-19 symptoms at the Respiratory Assessment Clinic. This does not include patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms who are seen and tested at Sechelt Hospital,” the doctors wrote. “Although we have been testing everyone with possible COVID-19 symptoms since early April, we have not had any positive COVID-19 tests in over two months, which indicates that our local COVID-19 prevalence is currently very low.”

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Just to be certain there was no ambiguity in that statement, we asked our Task Force contact, Dr. Daren Spithoff, if the straight run of negative test results was only at the clinic, or at both the clinic and Sechelt Hospital. “Yes,” Dr. Spithoff replied, “that would be hospital and assessment clinic – so very good news, especially in the context of increased testing and opening up.”

Very good news, indeed. What it means is that not one case of COVID-19 has been detected on the Sunshine Coast since the first half of April – not one. It also means that the people who were most likely to have the disease – those showing possible symptoms – underwent testing and the results were negative in every single case.

It’s a far cry from the “blunt” warning the doctors gave us in their March 22 update, when they predicted up to a 90 per cent infection rate on the Coast. It was obviously a worst-case scenario based on existing data, designed to hammer it into people’s minds that social distancing measures had to be followed with deadly seriousness. Few would fault the doctors’ approach in light of this week’s tremendous news. 

In the meantime, we don’t want to pull a New Zealand and declare the Coast COVID free, only to have new travel-related cases surface within days. As the doctors warn us this week, travel to and from the Coast will create ongoing risk as restrictions loosen up over the summer. They urge everyone to continue “following the key principles that have allowed us to keep our rates low.”

We should take their advice to heart, and hope they don’t have to return for an encore.

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