Back in January 2020, I was keeping a close eye on the Coronavirus Situation in China. Being in the media, I had a somewhat of an inside view of things to come. As I sat in WHO press briefings, I began to foresee what was coming and implemented taking precautions.
My family thought I was crazy and paranoid, and my kids were not happy when a week before spring break, the official time when the government decided to shut down everything, I locked everybody down myself. No more basketball practices, no more movie theatres, no more restaurants, no more schools.
Before people were even considering wearing masks, and before a shortage of supplies was even a thing, I bought a bunch of N95s and a few apocalyptic-looking respirators. That is mainly what my husband and I have been wearing throughout the pandemic. Despite the fact every scientist claimed COVID wasn’t airborne, a stance they now seem to be divided on, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that a respiratory illness did not somehow transmit through air. One look at cruise ship outbreaks was enough for me to come to a cautious conclusion. So I did my own thing. Yes, I know that without going through a complete fit-test, n95s are not completely effective, but still, in my mind, if I did the seal check recommended, it would keep us somewhat safer than an unsealed surgical mask or a cloth mask.
Here we are, two years later.
More and more scientists are now stating that COVID is, in fact, airborne, and calling for the population to ditch the cloth mask and #MaskUpBetter. In the face of Omicron, this epidemiologist also says it is time to rethink our measures, and for as long as I can remember, Ryan Imgrund, Biostatistician and Science Advisory Board Member, has been telling everybody with an ear to hear to upgrade their masks.
Yes, Omicron seems to be leading to less severe disease, and that’s great news. But the mere fact it is so transmissible has the potential to create a more dreadful outcome not only for our health system but across all industries.
For illustration purposes, let’s say Delta has a hospitalization rate of 4% and Omicron 0.5%, but Delta yields about 600 infections daily compared to 10,000 daily for Omicron–and doubling every 2-3 days. This means 24 hospitalization for Delta and 50 with Omicron. Add to this the thousands and thousands of people who will be in COVID protocol at any given time, crippling everything from the transit system–a thing that already happened last week–to warehouses and hospitals, and you have yourself a society in shambles. Already, thousands have seen their holiday plans disrupted when so many flights were cancelled over the Christmas week-end because of staff shortages and governments are rethinking protocols for health workers who fall ill with COVID to avoid similar shortages. We don’t want to reach the point where people can’t get the care they need because COVID is hijacking every resource available.
To me, perhaps the most worrisome news, and one of the reasons why it would be cautious to move schools online after the holiday break, is about the hospitalization rate of children under Omicron. Albeit cases being mild, the UK, South Africa and New York State are all reporting an increase in pediatric hospitalizations and monitoring the situation vigilantly. In a Twitter post, California State Epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan, wrote “Unfortunately NY is seeing an increase in pediatric hospitalizations (primarily amongst the unvaccinated).” According to NY state health dept, “none of the 5-11 year-old patients” hospitalized with COVID were “fully vaccinated and only one-quarter of 12-17 year-old patients were fully vaccinated,” a strong reminder of the importance to get our kids protected as soon as possible.
Hold on tight people, we’re in for a rough month of January. Omicron will bring us to our knees, unless we absolutely limit our movement, social distance, vaccinate and especially use better masks. It’s an easy step that can really make a world of difference. But please remember to wear your mask properly!
A few places where you can buy better masks made in Canada:
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