Shift to self-management as Omicron spreads

We asked: How do you feel about living with COVID?




SaltWire Network


TRURO - Instead of acting like COVID is all around, Nova Scotians are now being asked to face the reality of living with COVID while armed with vaccines and a highly transmissible variant with less severe health impacts. Public health’s messaging on Omicron has shifted from just before Christmas, when Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health warned that not enough was known at the time about the effects of the variant. Now, he said that public health experts and epidemiologists are airing on the side of optimism, though “nobody has a completely 100 per cent accurate crystal ball.” “You look at the pattern of past pandemics, the timeline, as well how the omicron strain is behaving, many people are on the same page that Omicron will be the path out of the pandemic,” said Dr. Strang at a briefing on Jan. 5. “Part of that is continuing to have high vaccine coverage rates. Part of it is, as we get to spring, people are outdoors more, and we see the natural seasonal cycles with respiratory viruses." The shift in messaging does not mean letting loose on the restrictions – yet. But while gathering limits were placed just before Christmas and extended until Jan. 31, the total lockdowns seen during past waves have not been implemented. Saltwire polled some people in Truro for their thoughts about the current situation. “We should be living with it,” said Garret Lowe. “It has been two years and I don't see any stopping it yet. We have to accept it and live our lives. He would like to see the restrictions go. “I don’t fear any of it, really, I don’t. Some people are different - (but) I respect everybody … I think we should live our lives and respect each other and move on. We have to move on sometime. We just can't destroy the economy the way it's going.” Brittany Poirier had not expected the new variant, but she is hopeful about it being a way out of the pandemic and might still wear masks even after that requirement ends. “At this point, I've just kind of accepted that it is a thing,” said Poirier. “Masks never really bothered me. So, it is what it is." Daily case records have been broken, up over 1,000, but with limited testing opportunities now, the total picture may never be known. However, Dr. Strang and Premier Tim Houston have assured that those who absolutely need testing will get it. “The numbers are scary. I'm not even going say they're not scary because they're scary. But I don't go anywhere for that reason. I kind of stay home and I go to work, and then I come home,” Poirier said. On Wednesday, Dr. Strang announced shortening the isolation requirements from 10 to seven days for fully vaccinated people and children under 12, in anticipation of more shortages in workplaces and personal needs. “Given that we're seeing, mostly, relatively mild illness, I feel that's an acceptable risk that will help minimize the overall impacts this wave is having on people's families and almost every sector of business in our economy,” said Strang. “This is another step towards living with COVID.” Other provinces, including New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, have dropped to five days. “That's kind of worrisome,” said Poirier. “I mean, I know if I was to have COVID, I would isolate for 14 days, just because double vaccinated or not, I still would.” Early in the pandemic, the world went on pause to slow down the virus in an attempt to reduce severe health impacts and deaths while mitigating an already overburdened health care system. Arthur Dodsworth said he understands the worry about high case counts and immunocompromised people, but he accepts it is time for COVID to be the norm. Public health is no longer contacting all positive cases. “As Dr. Strang says, it's just too unmanageable now for them to have call centres to call everybody,” said Dodsworth. “It's just much easier for us to do it ourselves. And I think that's really what they're getting to, is that we have to manage it ourselves from now on … it's really up to all of us to help control the spread so that it doesn't really affect our health care system as heavily as what it did in the springtime.” He travelled to the Netherlands through a university program just before the pandemic and is ready to go back. “I hope that once we're over this wave, things are lifted and we won't ever have to go into lockdown again … I just want to move on and to get on with our lives because we've put our lives on pause for so long,” said Dodsworth. “And especially being a young person, I've missed out on experiences that I really wish I could have partaken in.” George Perry saw that the Omicron wave peaked in South Africa quickly with relatively few deaths. “We’re entering the endemic phase, where everybody will have had it or have been vaccinated," said Perry. “So, some optimism after two years.”