Light at the end of the tunnel

I can eat indoors at a restaurant with friends. My hockey league has re-started for a summer season. We’re allowed to travel to other regions within the province again – so are planning our usual trip to Kelowna for the August long weekend. My office is working on a plan to get us all working back in the office in September (or possibly earlier), and I’ll be teaching university in person in the fall as well. All things that I never used to give a second thought to, but after 15 months of working from home1 and various permutations of pandemic restrictions, I now think “I can’t believe these things are happening again”.

In truth, we’ve been extremely fortunate in BC compared to many other places when it comes to pandemic restrictions. Other than ~6 weeks weeks in the early pandemic, I’ve been able to go to my gym. Those 6 weeks felt like 6 years at the time and it wasn’t until just the other day when I was chatting with the gym owner during my workout that I realized that the gym was only closed for 6 weeks.2. I got to in restaurants (though only with the other person from my household) and get my hair cut, whereas those types of things have been shut in many other provinces. Schools have been open for much of the pandemic (and a study out today showed that the rate of COVID-19 infections, as measured by serology (testing who has antibodies against COVID-19 (before vaccinations) regardless of if they showed symptoms or were diagnosed), were not different between teachers and the general population, suggesting that schools were not most risky than the general community).

We are also very fortunate that in Canada, despite a slow start, our vaccine rollout has been rocking. In fact, we are now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world when it comes to percentage of the population having had at least one dose (Source). There are a few small countries that have higher rates than Canada – all 47 people in Pitcairn are vaccinated (giving it 100% vaccination rate)’ Falkland Islands, Seychelles, Malta, Kuwait are all doing well; and Gibraltar has somehow vaccinated 116% of its population.

(Source: Out World in Data. Creative Commons CC BY license)

We are a bit behind on second doses, as the decision was made when we had very limited supply of vaccine in the beginning of the year to prioritize giving it first to those living in long-term care (where we saw the most tragic effects of the disease) and then focused on getting as many people partially protected with a first dose (which actually gives quick good protection) until we had enough vaccines to get those second doses into arms. So we are catching up pretty quick on second does.

(Source: Out World in Data. Creative Commons CC BY license)

Here’s me after getting my dose 2 – I managed to snag a spot at the vaccination clinic at the Anvil Centre – mere steps from my home!

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Unsurprisingly, case rates have plummeted since we got a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated. Because vaccines work.

And now we are entering the messy transition. Different people have different levels of risk tolerance, and they have different situations (e.g., having small children who can’t yet be vaccinated, having loved ones whose immune systems are compromised, etc.) and as restrictions start to ease, there will be a bunch of people who think they are lifting too quickly and a bunch of people who think they are being lifted too slowly. And since it seems like we aren’t going to be able to eradicate this virus, but we’ll just have to learn to live with and manage any outbreaks that pop up the way public health does for many other communicable diseases (e.g., measles, influenza – just to name a couple), I can imagine that it’s going to take some getting used to. Most people don’t know about all the work that public health does behind the scenes to manage communicable diseases when it’s not a pandemic and since that has all been front and centre during the pandemic, I can see that transitioning back to that type of public health management might seem unsettling to some people who’ve gotten used to seeing public health in action and might think that not seeing it means that nothing is being done. We’ve also all been through a lot in the last 15 months, so anxiety at all the changes is to be expected. Change is hard, even when it’s good change – like getting back to doing all the things we want to do.

  1. I’m extremely fortunate that all of my jobs – my day job and all my teaching gigs, have been things that I can do from my home. []
  2. In fairness, I did stop going to the gym a bit before they closed down in the early pandemic – so much was unknown and I felt like it if wasn’t deemed safe to work in my office, I probably shouldn’t be going to a gym either. []

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