By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
COVID-19’s omicron variant is sweeping across the province, shattering previous records and changing the way testing is being carried out. We at The Chatham Voice have found that recent messaging from the Ministry of Health has been confusing so we decided to ask Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby a few questions about where we stand.
The Voice: Now that the government is no longer tracking the number of cases of COVID-19, what is your best advice to area residents regarding managing the virus?
Colby: The number of confirmed cases is still being tabulated, but with the demand for testing outstripping the supply, the case numbers become increasingly remote from the true count.
People can manage the virus by getting vaccinated and avoiding the three C’s: crowded places, closed spaces and close contact settings.
At this point will everyone become infected?
Colby: Probably not everyone, but omicron is very contagious.
When do you think this Omicron wave will crest?
Colby: My best estimate is mid to late January.
In your opinion, is the COVID-19 vaccine working and if so, how?
Colby: It depends on outcome measure…infection prevention versus prevention of severe outcomes. Two shots are quite good at protecting against severe outcomes, but not good at preventing infection with omicron. Three shots are four times better than two, protecting against infection and excellent against severe outcomes.
Do you think COVID-19 will be declared endemic and how will that be managed? When will that happen in your opinion?
Colby: Impossible to say.
There’s been some talk about rapid tests not being made available cheaply, and that wealthier people are the only ones able to access the tests. What are your thoughts?
Colby: We cannot test ourselves out of this surge. I see this as less of an equity issue and more of a logistical problem.
Do you agree omicron is milder than delta? Is delta still out there?
Colby: There is still some delta circulating. Although omicron seems milder on average (preliminary analysis), the high transmissibility of omicron will still result in enough cases to overload our hospitals.
Is contract tracing still being done?
Colby: It is being done in high-risk settings such as long-term care and congregate living, but not in community settings. There are too many cases to trace like before with available resources. Better to concentrate on immunization.