By Rori Bennett – Junior Reporter
COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented change in the duties of community, regional and government officials.
Dr. David Colby, the Medical Officer of Health for Chatham-Kent, caught up with the Sydenham Current for a telephone interview to discuss the pandemic.
The following are Dr. Colby’s responses to five questions regarding leadership, challenges and how the pandemic has impacted the community:
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during the pandemic?
“My biggest challenge has been trying to make people understand what is required to prevent COVID-19 transmission: physical distancing, and getting them to comply with that,” Dr. Colby said.
“People either want some ‘rules’ so that they can legalistically follow the letter and not the spirit of those rules, to see how much they can bend the rules, or, they just want to be told to mask and then not worry about everything else.”
What have been some encouraging or positive moments you’ve seen during the pandemic?
“When we declared our large outbreak at Greenhill Produce to be over,” Dr. Colby said.
“It took a huge effort to get there, and it was a great moment.”
In terms of your normal every day work load in your role, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed this?
“I am far busier than I ever thought I would be, with no realistic possibility of ever getting even a day off where I don’t have to think of COVID-19,” he said.
“It is like being in the armed forces when a war is declared. The vaccine cannot come soon enough.”
Looking at the pandemic from a global perspective, how do you view Chatham-Kent’s response overall, especially compared to the United States, other countries around the world, or even other communities across Ontario and Canada?
“The real measure of success is whether our hospitals ever become so congested that people in need are denied life saving oxygen and/or respirator support,” Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health said.
“Through the tremendous efforts of Public Health, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance sites have never become crowded with COVID-19 patients, we have had no outbreaks in our long term care homes and our mortality rate is very, very low.”
Dr. Colby added: “Compared to some other jurisdictions around the world, we have done very well indeed.”
Knowing you don’t have a crystal ball and understanding that there remains a lot of uncertainty with the on-going COVID-19 situation, what does the future hold in Chatham-Kent and what are you focusing on?
“Most people in Chatham-Kent remain susceptible,” Dr. Colby said.
“We are vulnerable to explosive outbreaks of this infection until a vaccine becomes widely available. We are focusing on prevention of infections and continue to aggressively find and isolate cases and their contacts.”
Editor’s note: Junior Reporter Rori Bennett has been interviewing various leaders in the community to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the recent interview she completed with Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff: