Maureen Taylor is a physician assistant in infectious diseases at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.
I have a large extended family. I’m one of six children; they all have partners and children; I have cousins around the globe; you get the picture. So naturally these family members have questions about COVID-19 and I seem to be the designated expert, which is a leap. Regardless, rather than them texting and calling me individually, I suggested a Zoom meeting one evening last week. It went great – almost.
About 10 of us dialed in, ages 24 to 86. My nephew was good enough to set up his laptop so that my Dad could listen in. I was impressed with the sophistication of some of the questions from the younger adults. If I get infected, will I be immune to the virus? How much do gloves and masks actually protect you as a healthcare worker, or me as the average Joe? Are pregnant women at a higher risk and can it be passed on to the fetus?
My father didn’t ask many questions, but he argued his case that he is at very low risk of getting COVID-19 because he lives in a rural area with few neighbours. His social life is already limited (by choice).
“I live so far away from everybody,” he said. “I don’t go out, I’ve gone to the store a few times. And nobody in Tilbury has got this damned thing.”
I think I was able to make the case for social distancing to most of the other family members on that call, but I spoke with my Dad a week later and he’s just going about his life as usual. He was expecting his brother to visit that day. And he was looking forward to seeing some of his friends who spend the winter in Florida and will start to return next month. So I failed there. Even though I explained that for people older than 80 like him, COVID-19 carries a mortality rate of 10 – 27%.
The best thing about the Zoom meeting was that we were excited to be seeing each other from our homes flung far and wide all over the province. We loved the technology, the way we appeared in little boxes like the Brady Bunch. We got along better in that 30 minutes than we usually do at big family functions! It’s probably how we’ll celebrate Easter, and I’m not ruling out Christmas, either. Even if the pandemic period has passed.