Ontario Medical Association panelists explain what to expect when coronavirus finally recedes
With most residents of Ontario facing ‘pandemic fatigue’, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) has offered several opinions and ideas on how people might cope with the changes in our lives when COVID-19 pandemic ends.
For some, it could be the party. For others, it will be a time of difficulty and mistrust.
“It’s been 14 months since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic; 14 very long months for everyone. And now people all over the world are wondering how is this going to end? Because we know pandemics always end, ”OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill said at an hour-long online media briefing on Wednesday.
Hill wondered if we would return to the life we lived before or if things would change to the point that some of our behaviors would have changed forever. She said many questions like this were asked.
“As pandemic fatigue reaches all new highs and peaks, but we are seeing this light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Hill hosted a panel of medical experts to comment on what Ontario residents can expect when it comes to physical and mental health between themselves and their family members. Speakers included Dr. Zain Chagla, Associate Professor at McMaster University and a physician who has helped plan local, provincial and federal policies. He has been asked to comment on how the pandemic might end.
Chagla predicted “that COVD-19 will exist for the foreseeable future and probably for the long term.”
Chagla said that despite the vaccines, it will not be enough to eliminate all cases. He said COVID-19 would eventually become treatable as an “outpatient” illness.
He added that the question of when it will be over should be rephrased as when it will be over for the world.
He said the coronavirus is now spreading in South America, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with much more contagious variants.
“As we think about our exit plan, we have to think about the global exit plan as part of that,” Chagla said.
Chagla added that in Canada, we need to set “reasonable benchmarks” on how much healthcare to spend on stopping COVID-19 in the long term and what we would consider a measure of long-term success. term. Chagla said it was a vague response but that the pandemic will be over when it no longer threatens other vulnerable populations.
Dr. Allison McGeer, professor of laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, also took part in the discussion. She was asked to comment on her role as an infectious disease specialist.
Hill asked McGeer if she thought the disease would be completely eradicated or if COVID-19 was going to evolve into something else.
“From a viral standpoint, there are still a significant number of uncertainties,” McGeer said. She said a good way to look at it is that the virus has changed to adapt to humans.
“This could be the end of the story,” McGeer said, adding that what science sees to support this is “a converging evolution” of different variations.
“So maybe it will stop,” she added.
McGeer said what is needed is for the virus to be stopped by the vaccine for a long time, long enough that there is no infection from other mammals such as dogs, mouse or some other species.
She said it was a situation still unknown to science.
McGeer said another concern is that the virus could continue to evolve into something like a seasonal flu that changes over time. If that were to become the case, McGeer said COVID-19 would no longer be taken as seriously as it is now, but it wouldn’t be “a trivial disease” either. She said vaccination against COVID-19 would become a routine thing for most families.
Hill’s questions were also directed to Dr. Thomas Ungar, Chief Psychiatrist at St. Michael’s Hospital at Unity Health Toronto and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto.
Will we come back to life as we’ve known it, or will things change for good, Hill asked Ungar.
“I think what we’re going to see, I think it’s quite normal and people are expected to be worried, anxious, depressed and worried. This is a real and essential threat. for the health of our society. So we hear the terms of all people who are anxious and depressed. This is kind of normal. “
Ungar said what is concerning is that many people are in emotional distress and this will need to be addressed.
He said it will be up to infectious disease professionals to determine exactly when the pandemic is over, and that will inspire a small section of the population to “go wild” with the party, acting like nothing has happened.
Another part of society, around 30 to 50 percent, Ungar said, would gradually and cautiously fall back into a sense of normalcy and accept some changes.
Ungar said 10 to 20 percent may have a hard time moving forward. He said they would remain too fearful and avoid the others.
He said that part of society needs support and encouragement.
Ungar also mentioned the idea of a fourth wave of the pandemic, or perhaps a fifth wave, being the one that identifies mental health issues.
“We’re starting to see this in emergency rooms and acute care centers,” he said. Ungar said this has been noticed since fall 2020.
Ungar said that there are serious mental health issues that affect people’s moods, cause trouble sleeping, lack of interest, lack of energy, problems concentrating, feelings of guilt and dementia. ‘uselessness and anxiety levels to the point where people cannot function.
There is a wave of sanity ahead that needs to be addressed. He said this would be partly related to the economic impact that occurs when the government’s financial support systems cease and many people experience economic hardship.
This would require an improved support system for a large number of people.
“I just hope people are looking for care and I hope we will be able to provide that care,” Ungar said.
Len Gillis is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative at Sudbury.com. It covers health care in Northern Ontario.