In November 2020, CBC News highlighted a common situation Canada-wide - individuals in positions of…
Part I – Reduce the Fear Factor
On October 10th, Ottawa, Toronto and Peel regions were placed under modified stage 2 restrictions for a minimum of 28 days, which included mandatory closure of in-door dining rooms, gyms and cinemas and further limitations.
When the modified stage 2 restrictions were announced, many people posed a valid question – what will be different 28 days from now? Perhaps an obvious answer is that one would hope that the increasing spread of COVID will decline. But beyond that, what else needs to change to bring us to a better place?
A Stream of Frightening News
We are currently inundated with a stream of frightening news about COVID, contributing to elevated and increasing fear. To illustrate the point, a recent national poll completed by our friend David Coletto at Abacus Data found that as of October 13, those saying they have become more worried about COVID in the past week is up to the highest level since Abacus Data began tracking that at the beginning of the pandemic.
In a news report from the BBC, Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh aptly commented “There will never be no risk. In a world where COVID-19 remains present in the community it’s about how we reduce that risk, just as we do with other kinds of daily dangers, like driving and cycling.”
A Change in Messaging is Needed
In the same news report from the BBC, Statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in risk from Cambridge University and government adviser, said that dealing with COVID is a game of risk management and because of that we need to get a handle on the magnitude of risk we face. For that to happen, a shift from a seemingly never-ending stream of fearful messages to more reassuring messaging about how we are going to live with COVID present in our communities is essential.
Fear and Decision Making
Decision making can be challenging under the best of conditions. But when the level of fear becomes disproportionate to risk it becomes harder to think logically and accurately assess the probability of a risk occurring. In such situations, it has been demonstrated that a response to a risk may be implemented quickly (e.g. a lockdown) without carefully considering the secondary risks that the response creates (e.g. economic devastation and mental health impacts).
In the next post in this series, we will tackle how deployment of rapid mass COVID testing could help to reduce risk. And in the final post in this series, we will look at how enhanced information combined with rapid mass COVID testing could help people make a better assessment about the risk of air travel with COVID present in the community, possibly helping our aviation industry to get back in the air faster.