TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2021 — Ontario doctors say the emergence of the Omicron variant as we close out the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant set-back but, from the rear-view mirror, it will look like just another bump in the road.
“We’re all fatigued, but we’re fundamentally in a different place than we were 10 months ago,” Dr. Adam Kassam, OMA president and a Toronto physiatrist, said at the Ask Ontario’s Doctors: What to expect in pandemic Year 3 media briefing held today by the Ontario Medical Association.
“We have vaccines. While we have a new variant, this is just a bump in the road,” he said.
Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease specialist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute of the Sinai Health System in Toronto, said restrictions on social gatherings — either self-directed or imposed by public health officials — will buy more time to get more booster shots in arms as Omicron spreads.
“If we choose not to, we’re looking at a health-care system that will be overwhelmed by mid-to-late January,” she said.
Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya, a family physician at Women’s College Hospital and director of its Institute for Health Systems Solutions and Virtual Care, says we need to adjust to a world where COVID infection rates rise and fall.
“We need to decide what’s an acceptable level of disease and acceptable thresholds for taking action,” he said.
Casting to the future, he said wearing masks will become normal, where we work will depend on our preferences and risk tolerance and international travel will become more of a luxury.
Dr. Ripudaman Minhas, a developmental pediatrician with the Women’s and Children’s Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the pandemic experience has been particularly hard on children. Those who were born in the last two years have known nothing else.
“The impact of school disruptions is not fully evaluated,” he said. “We’re seeing what we call the ‘pandemic pause’ in child development — a pause in socialization, education, academics.”
Dr. McGeer said scientists are learning more about Omicron every hour of every day.
“It will be a discouraging, depressing and difficult time” as pandemic Year 2 ends and we move into pandemic Year 3, she said. “We will get through this, but it will be longer and more difficult than we thought.”
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