I have found myself saying several times in the past week, “this is a time to count your blessings.” And it is.
We have come through a year of extreme pressure. Everyone has experienced it in one way or another. But through all the angst, all the discomfort, and all of the uncertainty, there is much to be thankful for.
First and foremost, there are all of those frontline workers who have worked so hard to keep us as safe as possible from the most virulent global pandemic we have experienced in decades. It is not just their job, it is their passion. It had to be.
If it were not, they could not have endured what they have: the overload of care, in one form or another, they were called on to provide, their increased potential of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, the emotional and mental health effect when they have had to deal with not only the seriously ill but also so many families (more than 30,000 of them in Canada) who have lost loved ones due to the pandemic.
Because a member of my family is an intensive care nurse in a large Ontario hospital, I have seen firsthand, not only this dedication and commitment, but also the toll on family life that affects everyone in the household and the extra precautions that are necessary to keep everyone safe. Every frontline worker, whether they be physicians, nurses, paramedics, first responders and so on knows what that—and the consequential effect on their mental health—is all about.
There is also reason for hope, even in these dark days of the latest wave of the pandemic, that there are better days ahead. That may not be in January or February, but if you look for it there really is light at the end of the tunnel.
For one thing, as contagious as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is, there are early indications—although not yet fully confirmed—that it generally has a less virulent effect on people than the Delta variant that it has overtaken.
Dr. David Jacobs is a radiologist at Humber River Regional Hospital in Etobicoke. He is also president of the Ontario Radiologists Association. With over 10,000 new COVID infections reported recently in the province, he has spent the last few days on call. On Twitter this morning, he posted a long thread about what he had seen and what emergency room physicians with whom he had consulted had also seen and told him.
He reported that the ER docs had observed that “they were flooded with patients with upper respiratory tract complaints, but they were far less sick than in the previous waves. Occasionally hidden among these dozens of people was a really sick patient.”
Dr. Jacobs also said, “Another common observation [from ER doctors]was that no one had recently admitted a patient to hospital who had been boosted or fully vaccinated. Those who have been sick enough to be admitted to hospital in the most recent wave have been unvaccinated patients.”
Dr Jacobs goes on to say, “It is desperately important that people get vaccinated. The vaccines are protecting people from severe disease. Those who are the sickest, whether it be from Omicron or Delta are unvaccinated.”
These observations are not unique to Humber River Regional Hospital, as many health care experts are reaching similar conclusions.
Although current vaccines available have not proven to fully protect from this new variant, which is a major reason why fully vaccinated people are contracting it, statistics are indicating that booster vaccines are able to significantly reduce the effect.
So, the good news is that although many more people are contracting the Omicron variant, the effect appears to be less severe, especially among the fully vaccinated.
The result is fewer hospital admissions and less stress on intensive care units, indeed on our entire healthcare system. We can count that as a blessing as well.
There can be little question that the next month or two is going to be difficult. Hopefully, we can avoid another lockdown. But people need to get vaccinated, they need to wear masks in public, and they need to observe all COVID protocols. Those that can, but don’t, remain part of the problem and not part of the solution.
But I remain an optimist. While I believe a lot of people will contract the Omicron variant in the next month or two, for most the effect will not be severe. Some will not even realize they are compromised, which is why testing is important. Further, as more and more people get infected, the more quickly we could reach a level of herd immunity that may cause infection numbers to subsequently tumble.
There remains, therefore, much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. So, let’s count our blessings, be positive, and be careful. We will get through this.
The best is yet to come.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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