I would like to thank you for your recent articles discouraging people from climbing and engaging in outdoor activities which can involve travelling, spending time in close proximity to others, and potential for injury.
As a physician who works in rural and northern communities in Canada, and as someone who loves outdoor activities, I would like to add some more perspective to your concerns. Climbing and skiing in remote places will involve filling up at gas stations, stopping for coffee, and using other services in rural areas. Many hospitals in these communities are understaffed and under-resourced at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic. This virus will compound this problem significantly when it gets into rural communities, and their residents will suffer.
Of particular concern is the fact that many rural and remote communities are near reserves. The Indigenous population stands to be horribly impacted by this. The baseline health and health outcomes of this population are already worse than the non-Indigenous population. There is no question that they will suffer more with this pandemic. We in the health community worry for Indigenous people immensely.
People involved in outdoor activities tend to be healthy and fit. Climbers and skiers may be under the impression that they will not have major problems or die if they contract this virus. This is not true. Make no mistake, young people are dying around the world from this.
Now is not the time to be selfish. We have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable through this, which includes our rural and Indigenous populations, as well as seniors and others with medical problems. We have a responsibility to protect our healthcare workers who are working tirelessly and under tremendous personal and professional stress to help our population get through this. DO NOT PUT ANYONE AT UNNECESSARY RISK.
Stay at home. Don’t travel (that includes #vanlifers), even if it’s somewhere ‘remote.’ Do not put pictures on social media of engaging in activities in remote places. It is irresponsible and you are literally risking lives doing this.
I can tell you that the medical community is doing an incredible job of coming together to protect our population as best we can from this. We are putting ourselves at risk to help you. We need your help too. Do not underestimate the impact your individual decisions will have on the spread of this virus. Stay at home. It is the only defense we have right now.
Many thanks for your work on educating the outdoor community on this. Keep it up.
Dr. Jyoti Seshia
MD CCFP (FPA)