GUELPH – While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are down, the World Health Organization has not declared the pandemic over, and local residents should use caution this summer, says the local medical officer of health.
“COVID is still with us,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, in an interview on June 9.
“At best it can be an inconvenience. Or you get sick, or worse. But now we all have a bit of control on how it will impact us.”
Vaccine mandates are now lifted, and provincial mask mandates will lift this weekend, though some settings, like local hospitals and the province’s long-term care and retirement homes, still require masks.
But for the most part, people can go about their lives, see family and friends, take vacations and all the things they’ve missed these past two years.
Still, many people assume they’ll get COVID-19 despite their best efforts, and that’s just the new reality.
“I hear it too, but do you want to get it a day or two before your daughter’s wedding? Your graduation? Your new job or your vacation? It can be quite impactful in a negative way,” Mercer said.
“You probably don’t want to miss your daughter’s wedding. So control that piece.
“Keep up to date with your vaccine. Wear a mask for the two weeks leading up to your event. Do what you can to mitigate the virus.”
While the virus is still circulating, it’s circulating at low levels.
That’s largely the result of warm weather and more outdoor living and that’s typical of respiratory illnesses, Mercer said.
For the same reasons, Mercer expects to see a seventh wave in the fall as we all move indoors again.
Unless there’s a more powerful and deadly strain, Mercer said she expects there will be clinics for COVID-19 booster shots as there are for influenza.
Mercer said right now, anyone 60 and older is eligible for two shots and two booster shots. Those aged 12 and up can have their two shots plus a booster. Appointments can be booked at public health or through family doctors.
Health Canada is expected to approve the vaccine for children aged six months to age five by the end of June and there will be more about that once it’s available.
“We’ve already had communication with the Family Health Teams,” Mercer said.
“We will need family doctors to administer the vaccine to the little ones.”
Masks are optional in most settings and that’s fine, Mercer said. Wear a mask or don’t wear a mask, according to your own comfort level.
But masks do offer protection and are a good idea pre-vacation or other important events.
So don’t judge those who are wearing a mask, or those who aren’t, Mercer said.
“I know many people are ready to move on, but my best advice is to keep up-to-date with the vaccine,” she said.
“That’s the best way to be the least impacted by COVID-19.”