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Planning, preparation needed as COVID heads towards endemic phase: Dr. Barrett

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett reminds people that COVID-19 is still travelling too much and that some people are still vulnerable

A Dalhousie University infectious disease specialist is reminding people that COVID-19 isn't quite over, despite some countries preparing to enter a phase of living with the virus.

On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer to the United States' president, said the country is "out of the pandemic phase" when it comes to new infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

"I think what he was trying to get at is that we're heading into a phase where we are starting to see this virus shift into 'always around,' and that's great," Halifax's Dr. Lisa Barrett, who's worked with Dr. Fauci, said. "What he didn't say was, 'Let's go back to treating respiratory viruses the way we used to and let's take the same approach.'

"He did say we're getting into a phase of getting rid of the 'crisis moments all the time.' Really, we have to plan for the every day with respiratory viruses."

Dr. Barrett added that Dr. Fauci has always clarified in his interviews that there must be better preparation for living with respiratory viruses so another situation like the COVID-19 pandemic doesn't reoccur.

She told The Todd Veinotte Show that it's likely many people saw headlines saying the pandemic was over in the United States and didn't read further into Dr. Fauci's interview.

"We've had 65 per cent of our deaths in this province since December," Dr. Barrett said. "That's a pause-worthy moment. It might be that we're in a phase of this virus always being around, but it doesn't mean it is an easy or a good balance yet."

Nova Scotia's latest COVID-19 report indicates there were 24 new deaths related to the virus this week. Ninety-one people were hospitalized at the time of the report, and there were 5,436 PCR-confirmed cases.

Since the reported number of hospitalizations in Nova Scotia always lags, Dr. Barrett said the number rising is expected since there were special events, such as Easter, in the past couple of weeks.

But with the number of reported cases dropping, she said she hopes that means the province is heading out of the sixth wave of COVID-19 that began in March.

However, she also notes that the amount of testing being completed in Nova Scotia is also dropping. The per cent positivity is inching down, but the province is still around 20 to 30 per cent positivity.

"Hopefully we're getting beyond the wave part, but there is still an exceptional amount of virus out in the community," Dr. Barrett said. "Which again, comes back to having a new plan for normal and including some precautions and safer COVID living in that."

Still, she said COVID-19 isn't a virus people can forget quite yet, and people should still take precautions including testing for the virus and wearing masks in indoor public settings.

"We're going to have this virus; it hasn't settled in, so to speak, in its little niche in our virus community yet," Dr. Barrett said. "It's still travelling about too much, and vulnerable people are still vulnerable. As we go about life at this point, it still is important that public spaces be safe for everyone."


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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