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Column: Pandemic Diary — Busting some COVID-19 myths

Richmond News columnist has some pointed criticism of our COVID-19 system.
Tracy Sherlock
Tracy Sherlock writes about education, parenting and social issues in her columns at the Richmond News.

First, a personal update: I’m now on day eight of my ten-day COVID-19 quarantine and, other than a very, very minor bit of head and throat congestion, I’m feeling good.

When you have COVID-19, listening to public health updates is personal, and some things stand out as ridiculous. Here are a few I’ve noticed.

Myth one: Transmission doesn’t happen at organized events

When health officials say organized events like professional sports games are not causing a lot of transmission, that is a statement that is impossible to verify. I see no evidence that the number of exposures at professional sports games is being tracked or reported and if it’s not tracked or reported, we cannot know that it is low.

Here’s my own experience with contact tracing. They asked me to recount where I had been over the 48 hours before I got my first COVID-19 symptom. The purpose of that was to see who I might have spread it to. I was told to let all of those people know, including those who I live with, that they needed to self-monitor for symptoms, but didn't need to self-isolate.

I did go out for dinner during my contagious but asymptomatic period and both myself and the person I ate with later tested positive. After the contact tracing call was over, I realized that the tracer didn’t even ask the name of the restaurant. If there was an outbreak in that restaurant, no one would never know.

As far as where I might have picked up COVID-19, it’s a mystery the contact tracers didn’t even try to solve. They asked me if I had been at any parties or large gatherings and if I knew of anyone who had COVID. No to both. That was the end of it.

I’ve heard this refrain before about how transmission is low in restaurants or university classrooms or other organized settings. But I’m not buying it anymore. If transmission isn’t tracked or investigated, no one knows how high it really is in any given setting.

Myth two: You will be safe if everyone around you is vaccinated

I keep hearing public health officials say this: don’t go to events unless you’re sure everyone is fully vaccinated. However, I passed COVID-19 on to three people and all of us were fully vaccinated. More than half (53.7 per cent) of B.C.’s cases for the week of Dec. 8 to 14 were in fully vaccinated people, the government’s most recent report shows.

Knowing the people you are with are fully vaccinated is nice, because they are not as likely to get seriously ill if you do happen to unknowingly spread COVID to them, but don’t kid yourself that they won’t unknowingly spread it to you simply because they are double vaccinated.

Unfortunately, hospitalizations among the vaccinated are also creeping up. Forty-five fully vaccinated people were hospitalized over the last two weeks due to COVID-19. That’s 29.8 per cent of all hospitalizations.

Myth three: You will know which variant you’re infected with

Public health officials have said repeatedly that every positive test in B.C. is genome sequenced, so people might assume they will be told. That's not the case. Genome sequencing takes more time than the initial test and is not reported on the test result. There's no way for an individual to find out what variant they have.

I think I may have Omicron, simply because the people I spread it to got symptoms so fast – within 48 hours of seeing me in all cases. The incubation period for COVID is normally around five to six days.

Yesterday there were 753 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. and the government reported 135 Omicron cases in total. What’s unknown is how many of the 753 are Omicron and how long that will take to report. I would think a large majority of those cases must be Omicron, given that our cases were declining under Delta and were averaging about 350 a day for the past several weeks.

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