Exposed to COVID-19? Here’s what you should do next

The numbers we have, said Prativa Baral, epidemiologist and doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “are underestimated – our testing capacity is at peak, so we don’t actually see what’s going on with the number of cases. “

In the absence of good data, “we’re flying blind in a tunnel right now,” Baral said.

“We need to develop a quick and easy method that allows people to log their positive case on a rapid antigen test: a website – or ideally – an app where people can log their positive case, and maybe also record their daily symptoms. “

With that in mind, and with some surprised by the new minimal restrictions announced by Quebec Premier François Legault on December 22, the current situation is murky. Are we coming off a pandemic cliff or are we threading a needle?

The vaccine situation in Quebec warrants a more lenient set of rules compared to last year, Dr. Anne Gatignol, professor of immunology and microbiology at McGill University, told MTL Blog in an email.

“In addition, given all the efforts that most Quebecers have made over the past 22 months and the high level of vaccination, the government has understood that a little prudent social gathering can take place,” he said. -she writes. “It’s a reward for the vaccinated population, but it shouldn’t apply to the unvaccinated.”

Dr. Mark Goldberg, an environmental epidemiologist and professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University, agreed that the vaccination situation changes the stakes, but he called the lack of certainty around the Quebec data “shocking,” he said. declared that we are “playing with fire nonetheless.” “

“The number of cases, which is vastly underestimated, is skyrocketing and hospitalizations, which will take about a week or two, will as well,” he said. “This will cause all kinds of heartache for our amazing healthcare workers but, just as important, many people who are not hospitalized can suffer in the long term due to persistent symptoms and significant pathologies from the infection (“ long Covid “).

Goldberg criticized the federal and provincial responses to Omicron, which he said were far too slow. “In a pandemic, especially with the most infectious variant we’ve ever seen, every day counts and they’ve struggled once again,” he said.

“We should have boosted (at least our most vulnerable) seven days before the holidays, knowing people were going to come together,” Baral said. “We have failed to act in this window.”

We can’t even be sure of the impact of Quebec’s restrictions, as they were applied so recently, Baral said. “It usually takes a few weeks for the effects of the restrictions to show in the cases,” she noted. “But with omicron, the sheer contagiousness of it and the widespread community transmission that we have makes it unlikely that we will see a decline in growth anytime soon, especially since it is winter and people will mingle indoors for the holidays, further increasing community transmission. “

Gatignol was more lenient on the data failure, saying “we can understand that people at the front need to rest”. She said the key factors to look at are “the number of people hospitalized with Omicron versus Delta, what percentage of hospitalizations for Omicron versus Delta, and have people hospitalized with Omicron been vaccinated or not? “

She said “several scenarios” should be considered. If the Omicron variant causes serious illness similar to the Delta variant, she said, “we’ll see massive hospitalizations over the next two weeks.”

If Omicron is less pathogenic than Delta, “the increase in hospitalizations will be minimal and the health system will not be affected as much.”

Another possibility, she said, is that “only the unvaccinated will be seriously affected and end up in intensive care units.”

Ultimately, Gatignol said, “the truth is probably a mixture of these.”

We can get an idea by looking at the experience of South Africa and Europe with Omicron, but the situation in Quebec is not the same.

“South Africa has a younger population and has seen a massive wave with an earlier variant that could have granted some basic immunity,” Baral said. “In the UK they have increased a substantial proportion of their population from where we are (still> 65+). So we will need to monitor the growth of cases (and more importantly, the growth of hospitalizations) over the next few weeks to start getting a better picture. “

Goldberg said Europe’s experience with Omicron is a good benchmark to “see how bad things get.”

“Fortunately, we have higher vaccination rates than most other countries, and that will help,” he said. “But the boosters need to be available to everyone now. “

The cover image for this article is used for illustration purposes only.

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