Testing is hard to come by. Contact tracing is DIY. High-quality masks are on back order, and getting a booster is a free-for-all
Welcome to the create-your-own-adventure stage of the pandemic, where your individual experience will be determined by some combination of geography, financial resources, intuition and dumb luck. There is no guidebook, no consensus, no procedure to follow on this Day Eleventy-Billion of Canada’s war against COVID-19. So you woke up with a sore throat, headache and congestion? Fat chance you’ll be able to get a PCR test (unless you can fork over $160 to a private lab or don’t mind standing for hours in the cold). Just assume you have COVID-19, says Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, B.C’s Provincial Health Officer and others, and good luck to you if you require a test to return to work. On pandemic day Eleventy-Billion, the most we can offer is a presumption and a prayer.
Those who are blessed with time and financial resources can take additional steps to protect themselves and their families. Many will choose to participate in the third round of vaccine Hunger Games, which is virtually unchanged from the first round of almost a year ago. The determined will wake up and line up for hours before scheduled pop-up clinics and/or put their names on handfuls of wait lists and/or sit by their computers at all hours, constantly hitting “refresh” in the hope of snagging an appointment. How you will fare in this Omicron wave is up to you. Get a booster shot if you can, intuit the right thing to do if you start to feel symptoms and try to make sense of ever-evolving, sometimes contradictory public-health advice.
Speaking of, directives from federal public health authorities now say “medical masks and respirators provide better protection” from COVID-19 than do the non-medical ones we were first advised to procure and wear, but actually getting your hands on them is up to you. Whereas Germany is providing high-quality masks for free at pharmacies to people over 60 and others with pre-existing medical conditions, and Austria mailed them out to people over 65, Canadians who wish to protect themselves from this incredibly contagious airborne virus with something more effective than a printed piece of cotton have to source and pay for the respirators themselves.
There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant.
And it is more likely that people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or reinfected.
There can be no doubt that increased social mixing over the holiday period in many countries will lead to increased cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths