Zest for more normalcy on U.S. trip is cautionary COVID-19 tale

"I would advise them (Canucks) to behave as if they were in Canada. Follow the same behavioural guidelines to do what’s permitted here, which is quite safe. Even though you’re permitted to do more in the U.S. — don’t." — Dr. Brian Conway, Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.

Ben Kuzma 5 minute read October 17, 2021

Detroit has Greektown, which houses a variety of ethnic restaurants, pubs and a casino.

Buffalo has its world-famous chicken wings and Chicago champions thin or deep-dish pizza and number of name steak houses.

For the fully vaccinated Vancouver Canucks, it’s a welcome list of down time options to embrace a return to normalcy on the road this National Hockey League season — especially in the U.S. However, it’s also a cautionary balance of being back in public spaces and being prudent.

A day after falling 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings, the club secured a suite Sunday at Ford Field to view the National Football League clash between the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals. As COVID-19 rates continue to spike sharply in Michigan with 8,297 new cases and 104 deaths over a two-day period prior to the weekend — and no mandate for those in a full Detroit house to be vaccinated or wear masks in the covered stadium — safety is vital on remainder this trip.

“I would advise them to behave as if they were in Canada,” said Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre. “Follow the same behavioural guidelines to do what’s permitted here, which is quite safe. Even though you’re permitted to do more in the U.S. — don’t.”

The Canucks understand what’s at play after a COVID-19 outbreak physically and mentally affected the club last season. They have a zest to enjoy the road, but within reason.

“Especially after last year being such a crazy year,” said Canucks winger J.T. Miller. “I love to get back on the road and do normal things and go to dinner and have a beer with your teammates. It’s a perfect way to start the season and we’re super excited. A lot of games in a lot of cities and it’s coming at a perfect time.”

So is understanding that the Delta variant fuelled virus remains a beast.

The Canucks are still missing veteran centre Brandon Sutter, who continues to struggle with long-haul symptoms associated with COVID-19, and his inability to gather strength or breath properly is not lost on teammates.

“You feel bad for Brandon and luckily I don’t have those long-lasting effects,” said Canucks captain Bo Horvat. “Who knows down the road? It just shows how serious this virus is and if you get it, you run the risk of getting what Brandon has and it’s keeping him out of the game.

“He brings a different energy, positivity and laughter and keeps the room light. He’s a great penalty killer and plays big minutes for us.”

Canucks coach Travis Green made sure a virus-awareness reminder was delivered to his club before this trip for obvious reasons. It doesn’t take much of a misstep to get infected, even for the vaccinated.

“It feels like life is getting back to normal, but normal now is different,” he said. “Be careful when you’re going out and wear your mask when you can, but it doesn’t mean you’re bulletproof and you can’t get COVID. People can still get it and you’re going to see that.”

The long-haul effect knows no age restrictions and Dr. Conway has treated a number of patients.

“Far too many,” he said. “It’s for sure in younger adults and teenagers and it may be as many as one-third, who are going to have some long standing symptoms. The most common one is people unable to achieve and maintain physical effort in a way in which they were able to do previously.

Going up a flight of stairs and barely making it with shortness of breath.

“It depends on the population and in younger people — and by that we mean under 40 — it’s probably because they’re starting out more healthy. Most common is physical fitness diminished that affects their day-to-day lives. The other common symptom is fatigue and muscle ache bordering on exhaustion at times. The mental cloudiness much less.”

Dr. Conway admitted what Sutter is enduring has perplexed the medical community.

“First, my heart goes out to him,” he said. “I hope at some point that he recovers and that we as a medical profession, find a way to help him and others that we have not yet figured out. It tells me the simple message. Don’t get COVID. Get vaccinated.

“Travelling to the U.S. in a country that has largely ignored COVID, be extra careful and don’t go places where you feel uncomfortable. Try to adopt the same behaviours that you do in Canada, in terms of where you go, who you go with and wear masks. And keep your distance — even though it’s not compulsory in the U.S.

“Let’s understand we live in a COVID world and it’s not going away any time soon and it can have long-term consequences.”

Dr. Conway also stressed flu shots are another must this fall.

“For a bunch of reasons,” he said. “It looks like COVID-19 illness people who get sick put more stress on the health system because we don’t know if they have flu or COVID. Flu and COVID at the same time is a bad thing. We didn’t have enough flu last year and it’s expected to be worse.”