Ontarians have recently started hearing their top health and government officials talk about “learning to live with COVID-19“But it is by no means an immediate return to life as it was in 2019 and the authorities should improve their messaging, experts say.
Dr Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of Ontario, currently uses the phrase, as do Toronto’s top physician, Ontario Health Minister and Premier Doug Ford.
Dr Anna Banerji, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said: “Moving from a mostly “stay at home” message to “learning to live with it”.
“We’ve all had collective trauma — to some extent, all of the world have had collective trauma — over the past few years,” she said.
“I think it will be a difficult one for everyone. People are scared to receive it. And a lot of people are doing all the right things.”
For some, this message represents a welcome transformation, but it should be done gradually because the health care system is still struggling, she said.
“It may not be so much when the government says, ‘You have to take these measures to keep society safe.’ I think it will probably turn to, ‘What’s your risk? Who is around you? ”’
Justin Presseau, co-chair of the Ontario science panel’s behavioral science working group, said he’s personally not a fan of the “learning to live with the virus” story.
“We have all had to live with this virus for over two years and so many people have made sacrifices and/or experienced losses while living with the virus,” he said.
“With my previous message on how to stay safe, I would like to see the transition of support and communication more nuanced about how we continue to work together as a community to keep ourselves and our families safe. our most vulnerable through the end of Omicron’s current phase towards what we hope is a gradual return to more normalcy. “
Ontario’s top doctor suggests masking will last for a while
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says the use of the term “learning to live with COVID” is problematic because it is the “collective cry” of COVID mitigation devices. in the past two years.
“I think what people hear is surrender, and that’s not what they should be hearing,” he said.
Instead, it’s an acceptance that COVID-19 will continue to circulate to some extent for the foreseeable future, but that people don’t necessarily need to be scared, Deonandan said.
“It does not mean that we open the door and remove all the mitigation tools,” he said.
It means gradually lifting the measures, layered with the “miracle of vaccination”, although acknowledging that some people will still get COVID-19, and some will get sick and die, but hopefully in such small numbers it’s no longer believable, Deonandan said.
“I think part of the message is that we shouldn’t be afraid,” he said.
“In fact, we should never fear for ourselves personally. We should always fear for individuals who cannot protect themselves and for the health care system. “
The individual risk has dropped to extremely low for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, but it won’t be 0, Deonandan said.
“We minimize it as much as we can, and we assess that risk with appropriate comparisons like is the risk on par with crossing the street? Is it equal to eating undercooked food? Is it the same as having someone come to dinner that you know has the flu? “
There are also different considerations for people with young children who have not been immunized and who are at higher risk of getting the disease or living with someone who is, Deonandan noted.
Moore, when asked to expand last week on the “learn to live with COVID” comment, said that Omicron is so contagious that it is difficult to control and that the province now has a fully vaccinated population that is accessible. with effective treatments for COVID-19.
It’s time for society to discuss how many public health measures there are to legally maintain or instead only recommend, while balancing mental, physical, and social needs. , the economy and education of people, says Moore.
“We had two years of great fear about this virus and the strains have changed over time,” he said.
“So as a society to alleviate that fear, it will take time for us to normalize living with this virus.”
Many of the public health fundamentals emphasized during the pandemic will continue, Moore said, including hand hygiene, physical distancing, staying home when sick and even wearing a mask. if people want.
“It will be a journey as a society to come out of this and normalize Omicron and COVID because we have normalized all the other viruses,” he said, predicting. predict that there will likely be an annual COVID-19 vaccine, just like the flu shot.
Dr. Noah Ivers, a family physician at Women’s University Hospital, said that when officials talk about learning to live with COVID-19, they should follow through with that statement by stating what it means. they.
There are a number of public health measures that will continue to make a big difference, Ivers said, including improved ventilation, improved sick leave policies and people staying home when sick.
“For people living with some kind of disability, whether physical, mental or related to their immune system, I think it’s really comforting to know that society has learned from this. about how to help keep those people safe in the future. – not that society wants to forget all these things and go back to forgetting them. ”
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8598786/ontario-shifting-messaging-covid/ Experts weigh in on delivering the public health message of ‘learning to live with COVID’ – National