With the uncertainty around the potential impact of Omicron, the latest variant of COVID-19, and the holiday season fast approaching, many are wondering if they should hold off of large gatherings and crowds.
Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Teresa Tam, advised Ontarians to exercise “prudence”, as the number of cases of Omicron in the province continues to spike. Waterloo Region put out a release detailing how nine Ontario sports teams have been linked to COVID-19 outbreaks, specifically of the Omicron variant, which have put more than 500 high-risk contacts associated with the teams at risk. There are four confirmed cases of Omicron in the region.
Tam praised Governor General Mary Simon’s recent decision not to attend the Grey Cup game in Hamilton, as a result of the rising case numbers in the province, and encouraged others to follow suit.
“For each of us, that means assessing personal/family risks and making safer choices,” she tweeted.
1/3 #COVID19 key concerns 🇨🇦 : there is still uncertainty regarding the potential impact of the #Omicron variant, but any rapid rise in cases could add additional strain to our still fragile healthcare system.
— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) December 13, 2021
It remains to be seen if Canadians will take the Governor General’s lead and cool off from festivities and large events in the coming weeks.
While there’s still more to be learned about Omicron and its severity and impact, experts are warning Canadians to take it seriously.
Colin Furness, an assistant professor with the Institute for Health Policy Management and Evaluation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health says he wouldn’t characterize the information on the variant as mixed.
“There is a converging view that it’s going to be extremely serious, and there are a lot of people who haven’t processed that, including government leaders and decision makers,” he tells Yahoo Canada News.
He explains that what we do know is that Omicron will readily infect people with two doses, which means that functionally, most of the population who are vaccinated are now unvaccinated.
COVID-19 is known to spread in large gatherings, such as sports stadiums, and in settings where people are unmasked, like in restaurants or holiday gatherings. With all this in mind, he says we should expect a giant surge.
“The variant may or may not be associated with less severe illness, but either way, our healthcare system won’t be able to cope with the large numbers,” he says. “Yes, some form of lockdown will need to happen, and it likely won’t be in time to avoid preventable deaths.”
He adds that he believes this wave will pass within weeks, not months, which means that those who are eligible for the booster shot should get it.
“We will speed up third shots and there will be a great deal of natural immunity generated by all of the infections,” he says.