Not if but when; MOH says you’ll likely be ill from Omicron

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Lambton’s medical officer of health says it’s not a question of if you will get COVID-19 but when.

Dr. Sudit Ranade says because the Omicron variant spreads so easily, the number of people contracting the virus will continue to grow rapidly and public health across Canada will likely loose track of exactly how many people have become sick.

Thursday, Ontario reported the highest number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in one day, 5,790. Experts say that may just be the tip of the iceberg since many people have mild symptoms and wouldn’t have been tested and others wait days before accessing testing because there are so many people trying to find out if they are COVID-19 positive.

“Most people are going to be exposed to COVID over the next several months. The decisions that we make now and later are about when we get exposed, as opposed to whether we’ll get exposed,” Ranade told reporters thursday.

“That is a current reality that we are facing with Omicron because of how transmissible it is.”

Lambton reported 57 people testing positive for COVID-19 today – and an additional death.

Ranade expects the trend to continue. “With lots and lots of people gathering, we are going to see lots and lots of cases… As cases get exponentially higher, the ability of the system to handle different parts of what we had been doing is going to actually diminish to the place where those things are no longer feasible.”

The province has already to told public health to make sure they reach the close contacts of the highest risk cases, like health care workers and those in long term care. It’s also asking people who are ill to reach out to their own contacts and just start isolating without direction from public health.

Ranade says with the large number of people getting the variant, “the impact of contact tracing is no longer there, you can’t really get any bang for that” because COVID is everywhere.

And he says, soon, you may not be able to find out positively that you have COVID.

“Right now we’re saying, ‘if you have symptoms, you should go get a test. And there are some avenues by which you can do that.’ But over time, as the testing system gets overwhelmed, the province may have to restrict the eligibility for testing to certain conditions, for example, certain, you know, people who work in high risk settings.

“If you’re very ill or not feeling well, you should be staying away from other people just as we do for flu just as we do for other diseases or respiratory condition.

“But the implication, of course, that will be because we’re not testing as much, we again, we you know, the numbers themselves will be kind of somewhat unreliable in terms of what cases are out there.”

The measure of how severe COVID-19 has become, Ranade said, will be the number of people who are severely ill in hospital.

And he says at this point, public health can no longer accurately trace how many cases of COVID there are and what percentage of people are getting severely ill.

Ranade says for now, public health is focusing on getting booster shots to those over 70. They have the highest risk of severe problems because of COVID. Public health will be trying to open up more appointments for booster shots for them.

For everyone else, Ranade says vaccine, even without the booster, will protect most people.

“If you’ve had two doses of vaccine that is really highly protective against the outcome that we care about the most, which is whether or not you have severe disease.”