Happy new year – and welcome back to 2021. Or so it seems.
Twelve months ago at this time we were in the midst of a COVID tsunami. And we're right back there again.
We'll spare you the Groundhog Day analogies but last year many of us thought that with miraculous vaccinations on the horizon, maybe we were on the cusp of finally beating COVID.
It turned out that was not the case – but it hasn't been for lack of trying and lack of innovation.
Vaccines were developed in record time, businesses learned to quickly pivot and change in order to survive, and residents adapted to wearing masks and following the protocols designed to “bend the curve” and allow us eventually to return to some degree of normalcy.
Then came Omicron.
No one wants to be shut down for three weeks again, but here we are, trying not to outright defeat COVID this time but to reduce the number of hospitalizations and keep our health system from being overrun.
For many businesses like restaurants, gyms and hometown retailers, this is a worst-case scenario. We only hope that with the strong support of local residents they will all be able to weather this latest storm.
That's the bad news.
The good news is we have vaccines and boosters and rapid tests at our disposal. But our province has done a lousy job of late ensuring that those vaccines and tests make their way to those who need them most.
It's not too late to make it so, but Doug Ford and his team need to step up their game – and fast. Announcing blitzes, enlisting pharmacies to dispense shots or the LCBO to distribute rapid test kids all sounds great, but not without the infrastructure to make it happen. Such words and promises need to be backed up by real action.
No one in Ontario – including us – really wanted a lockdown over Christmas, but way back in mid-December, the Ontario Science Table called for an immediate “circuit breaker” to avoid seeing 10,000 COVID cases through the holidays.
Ford chose to ignore that politically unpalatable scientific advice six months before an election – and sure enough, here we are facing thousands more COVID cases than we likely would have had he acted then.
And now, with testing limited, we really have no idea how many people are sick from the virus. None of this reflects well on the decision-making prowess of the “for the people” premier.
If there is a silver lining with Omicron (except if you turn out to be the one who is deathly afflicted by it), it is that while this variant is highly infectious, those afflicted by it generally have been experiencing much milder symptoms.
Especially, perhaps exclusively, if they have had two or more COVID vaccinations.
That is why it is so crucial that Ontario find a way to get more needles into arms now and for anyone who has not bothered to get vaccinated yet to read the proverbial writing on the wall.
To the vaccine-hesitant: The shot is safe, it's reliable and it will save lives. Maybe yours.
Barring a valid medical reason for not getting vaxxed, we really have to wonder: What will it take to get you to roll up your sleeve?