Is it just me or is like, everyone in Toronto sick right now?
Spring allergies, colds, food poisoning incidents, seasonal migraines… these maladies are certaintly going around, as they often do at this time of year, but I’m talking about a different kind of sick — the kind that comes with receipts.
COVID-19 is back in a big way across Ontario, if online chatter and public small talk are any indication, with staff at hospitals, restaurants, retail stores and other busy establishments reportedly dropping like flies with respiratory symptoms.
We’re now at the point where it’s hard not to notice a steady stream of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result images on Twitter and Instagram.
It’s been difficult to measure just how fast the virus has been moving since the provincial government dramatically reduced public testing a few months back, but COVID-19 Science Advisory Table director Dr. Peter Jüni estimates (based on viral levels in wastewater samples) that we could be seeing as many as 35,000 new infections per day.
“Oh, we’re in the middle of it. When you look at our wastewater, it’s very clear,” said Jüni on Tuesday when asked about whether or not Ontario is experiencing a sixth wave of the pandemic.
“You can call it whatever you want, you know; whether it’s a resurgence of the Omicron wave we had or a sixth wave, the point is really to understand this is not a BA.2 wave.”
Jüni, like many experts, is linking this apparent spike in cases to the province’s recent lifting of mask mandates, capacity limits, vaccine passport requirements and other public health measures (all of which are set to be gone completely by April 27.)
PCR testing may no longer be wildely available, but RATs can still be picked up for free at any number of grocery or pharmacy locations in Ontario.
People definitely seem to be making use of these tests more than ever — or at least sharing their results publicly more than ever before, whether for show, out of solidarity, to warn others, or even just to say ‘I told ya so’ to the Ford government.
That, or the sheer volume of people getting COVID locally over the past few weeks has resulted in more positive RAT photos being taken and uploaded online.
Attendees of large Toronto events are warning others of their own positive test results.
And realizing that what they thought was a cold or allergies is in fact one variant or another of the coronavirus.
Some are using photos of positive rapid tests to slap down alternate theories from perfect strangers who give them unsolicited medical advice.
Pharmacist are urging people to exercise caution based on what they’ve seen among clients.
Some Ontarians are angry about the circumstances that may have contributed toward their recent infections with COVID.
Others are bemoaning the fact that they’re having to cancel plans on account of testing positive.
… or using test results as political ammo.
But it’s not all bad news – people are also sharing their negative test results with subdued and respectful gratitude.
Others are using images of their tests to draw attention toward potential exposures.
Some are flocking to pharmacies for free RATs after hearing about how many of their friends have contracted COVID over the past week — and rightfully so, most would argue. Better safe than sorry.
The silver lining here is that many, many more people are vaccinated (and or have immunity from prior infections with COVID) than they were last year at this time.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, has stated multiple times that he feels confident that the province’s healthcare system can handle any future outbreaks “thanks to our high vaccination rates and natural immunity.”
In the case that he’s wrong, I’ll be keeping my cough at home for the time being.