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Notes

TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK
- Posted 2022-03-15 11:58:19

 

  Published on Facebook by:

  Anne-Marie Zajdlik 

  Studied Medicine at McMaster University

  Studied Bio-medical Science at University of Guelph

  Family Physician

TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK

Soon it will be a personal choice. So, how do you decide? It's true that we are well past the peak of Omicron. All tracking numbers continue to decline but no longer at a precipitous rate. The curve is flattening. But it is flattening at 1800 new, known cases/day. Hospitalizations are just under 800 in Ontario and ICU admissions still hover over 200.

We have done amazingly well, that's true. New daily cases went as high as 18,000 in Jan and that was just folks who tested positive, not those with no access to testing. Hospitalizations peaked at over 4,000 and ICU admissions at over 500.

https://covid19-scienceta

That's a dramatic decline thanks to vaccinations and public health restrictions including masks in schools and public spaces.

Look at all three of these graphs which you can find when you click on the above link and scroll down:

/Daily COVID-19 Hospital and ICU Occupancy in Ontario

2/Daily COVID-19 Deaths in Ontario

3/Estimated Rate of COVID-19 Cases per 1 Million Inhabitants per Day in Ontario

I see stabilization and possibly a continued, slow decline but COVID-19 is still definitely with us. There are still lots of cases under the line in each graph. It is still making people sick enough to require hospitalization and people are still dying. Masks should be at the ready. I think we should keep them on in certain circumstances until we see where we stand in the summer months or until the majority of kids over 5 are vaccinated. Keep them close until we have a vaccine for kids under 5. Most kids skate through a COVID-19 infection with little more than symptoms of a mild to moderate cold. Serious illness and death are very rare in kids under 11.

Here is my fear. When we eliminate masks and other public health mandates, my main concern is that we will have another wave in the fall. The immunity we have gained after three doses will likely wane by August according to research. If in the months leading up to our waning immunity our daily case counts increase because we have removed all restrictions too early, a pre-winter wave may happen as we move back indoors.

A new booster and then an annual booster will likely be available to all of us in the fall. It is also now known that 6 million people were infected with COVID-19 during the Omicron wave in Ontario. Add that, and there is cross over here, to the 12 million who have received 2 doses and the over 7 million who have received three doses and we have a lot of immunity built in to our population. BUT WE HAVE NOT REACHED HERD IMMUNITY. We are not yet in a position to rely solely on vaccines and natural immunity to keep COVID at bay. That is important to understand.

Once our vaccinations rates are over 80% and possibly more, in all age groups, COVID-19 will be a manageable and perhaps seasonal illness, one that we need to live with. We will have to manage the risk and get on with our lives at some point. But I don't think we are there yet. I will continue to wear a mask in stores, at work, in restaurants and theatres. If there is a frail or elderly person indoors, I will keep my distance and wear a mask there too. I would keep wearing a mask if I were a teacher in front of a class or if I get on a bus or into a cab. You get my drift.

Do I agree with masks no longer being mandated? Yes, I do.

Mandates cannot be in place forever. In a free and democratic society like ours, they should be lifted as soon as possible and, in this case, as soon as we are past the worst of the Omicron wave. Which is now. But that does not mean that masks should come off. It is time for us to take responsibility for our own well-being and the well-being of our family, friends and neighbours. You will soon be responsible for deciding when you need to wear a mask to protect yourself and others. Would I like to see masks stay on in schools? Yes. Vaccination rates need to be higher among school-aged children before I would take away the layer of protection provided by masks. It's all about finding a balance between the spread of the virus and our ability to protect and treat the vulnerable. In my opinion, there is still too much going on under the lines in those graphs.

For people who remain vaccine hesitant based on their concerns about the mRNA vaccines, there soon will be two more traditional vaccines available in our area: Novovax and Medicago. These vaccines are not available yet but they have been approved for use by Health Canada.

We have done extremely well as a country in fighting this pandemic which, by the way, remains a pandemic. We have lost so many things: joy, a sense of security in our world and for some, in our relationships. Our sense of emotional, physical and economic well being and a confidence in the fact that all will be well, the future is bright. I have two sons. If they lived in Ukraine, they would be fighting a war. Perspective spurs us to take action when we witness the senseless suffering of others. Perspective also builds resilience. It can make our troubles seem minor in comparison. Some say that Canadians have lost their sense of politeness and kindness. We are angrier, more irritable, more prone to lashing out and being self-centred. Let's stop that nonsense, shall we? You feel better, you are healthier and your future is more hopeful when you remain polite, kind and patient.

And, as I used to tell my now adult children before they left the house, "Make good choices". Wear a mask when it makes sense to do so. Socialize responsibly, stay home if you have symptoms, get vaccinated and boosted. Get your children vaccinated. We have the tools we need to get to herd immunity, tools that we did not have in the winter of 2021. Let's keep using them even when we are no longer told we have to.

Most of all, be kind and patient whether you agree with the people around you being masked or unmasked. It will soon be our individual choice and that choice should be respected.

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