HALIFAX -- As healthcare workers around the world fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Maritime hospitals are doing everything they can to prepare for an increase in the number of patients affected by the virus.

“There is no doubt that people are apprehensive when they look at other countries, such as Italy and Spain, and see what is going on there,” says Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society.

“It’s just a matter of being as prepared as we can and anticipating the worst and hoping for the best. The key is to be prepared.”

The availability of personal protective equipment is an ongoing concern amongst healthcare workers.

“I’m just advocating for the proper use of the PPEs now, to conserve as much as we can for when we really need it in the days and weeks ahead.”

COVID-19 is a contagious virus that can spread rapidly. However, Goodyear wants to remind people that the virus spreads through contact and droplets, which is why physical-distancing is so important.

“It can be frustrating for people having to spend days on end inside, but it is a key aspect of trying to slow down the spread of the virus,” says Goodyear.

“I think the other thing that people need to be aware of is that, overall, the majority of us, when we get this virus, are going to be mildly affected by it. The number of people that are actually going to require hospitalization … based on what we are seeing, is certainly under 10 or five per cent and the numbers that are requiring ICU admission are even smaller. The preliminary numbers in Canada, based on the data we have so far, the death rate is nowhere near what we see in Italy or Spain. Right now, it is at about one per cent. It is key for people to continue to behave as they are so that we can flatten the curve.”

Goodyear is satisfied with the government’s response to the pandemic. He says listening to physicians and other experts of public health will go a long way in preventing a large spike in cases that can overwhelm the healthcare system.

“I am certainly pleased with what our chief medical officer of health and the current government here in the province of New Brunswick are doing. It is certainly necessary to keep people isolating in their homes as much as possible.”

Last week, Goodyear took to Twitter to encourage people to continue the practice of self-isolating and physical-distancing.

“I think it was important, from a personal point of view, to let it be known to the public that what you are doing right now makes a huge difference to myself, my colleagues, nurses, other healthcare workers that are in the hospital,” says Goodyear. “I think that goes a long way in making people accept the current behaviour that they are under.”

The Maritime provinces could be at an advantage when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19, according to Goodyear.

“We are spread out physically, in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, from each other. Even in our smaller cities – such as Fredericton and Saint John – we would not be, certainly, called urban by the standards we see in major cities in Europe or New York, for example. So, it’s still early in the game, but hopefully our geographical advantage will play a role here in the Maritimes.”

As for how long we’ll be dealing with COVID-19, Goodyear says he’d be “looking into a crystal ball to come up with a number in terms of weeks or months.”

“I think that we are certainly looking at many more weeks ahead,” he says.

“It is still very early yet and, yes, we are anticipating many more cases in this province and other provinces. We’re starting to see a shift now from travel-related cases to community cases and we are starting to test people now in the community more, not just people who have travelled abroad. As we test more people, certainly we are going to see a spike in the numbers.”