When it comes to managing the pandemic, Nova Scotia is and has been a shining light. The outcomes in the province have drawn international attention for being among the world’s best. Currently, Omicron hospitalizations run .2 – .3 percent.
Politicians and the people of the province put this down to Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer. During the pandemic Strang has served under three premiers from two different parties and been trusted by all. When he recommended closing provincial borders it was done. When he asked people not leave their county he was backed up by then Premier Stephen McNeil who famously told Nova Scotians to “stay the blazes home!” That became a popular t-shirt and appeared on the ‘welcome to’ sign for the town near the premier’s home.
Strang is a very (small ‘c’) conservative person, who is open in dealing with the news, but not known for over-promising or seeking popularity. His only promise is for more hard work and diligence. In his most carefree moments he is cautious and methodical.
So it was a bright spot in his January 3rd, 2022, public briefing when breaking beyond case counts, testing numbers and vaccinations delivered, he said, “January will be a tough month. I expect the Premier and I will have some more hard decisions to make. Omicron is pushing us to the limit and creating a difficult balancing act between controlling the virus and limiting significant impacts of restrictions. None of this is easy and we need every Nova Scotian, including the Premier and me, to be at their best.” As if channeling Churchill, he continued, “let these challenges bring out our finest qualities for all to see. We will get through this. Pandemics do end. So let’s get through it by working together, caring for one another and treating each other with kindness and respect. The challenges we are facing are manageable and they are temporary. But the legacy we leave with our response will be permanent.”
In an interview with the CBC’s Halifax morning program, Strang reiterated, “Omicron is so infectious that even small numbers of people getting together is an opportunity for the virus to spread. So, I think this is a short-term peak. We may have a similar kind of spike a week from now related to New Year’s (gatherings).
“January is going to be up and down with high case numbers, but I think we have things in place that we can slow down the spread. That’s our goal — not to prevent spread, but slow down the spread to limit the number of people at any one time needing hospitalization.
“This pandemic will end and I think Omicron is likely to be the way out of this. As we get through February and March, things will settle down, and myself and lots of my Public Health colleagues really feel that by the time we get to spring, we will be really robustly able to move into the endemic or “living with COVID” phase.”
The assessment of Strang and his colleagues across Canada is this is the final phase. Life – and travel – will develop a new normal, just as we developed new normals after 9/11, SARS and successive collapses of the financial markets.
Spring may not just bring back the leaves, but offer some liberation and freedom to safely live our lives. For once hearing “the end is near” is good news.