Elaine Powell, Director, Regulatory Compliance, dentalcorp; Jaime Robertson, Manager, Regulatory Compliance, dentalcorp
A year-and-a-half into this ever-evolving pandemic and we find ourselves in the grip of a third wave. The pandemic has caused a significant change in all of our lives. The only constant we’ve had is the constant of the unknown. The virus has proved to be relentless and efforts to contain the spread require a consistent effort to follow regulatory and public health guidelines.
At the peak of Canada’s third wave, the daily average caseloads of COVID-19 reached an all-time high of around 8700 cases, compared to roughly 2500 cases a day at the peak of the first wave. Another key differentiator between the initial and current wave is in the demographic of the infected. To date, the age group in Canada with the most infections is 20-29, a stark contrast from the early days of the pandemic when the elderly were considered the most susceptible to severe illness from the virus. The key culprit for this wave’s record surges in case numbers are variants of concern (VOC), highly infectious versions of the virus that are less responsive to existing treatments and prone to inflicting more severe illness. Fortunately, many of our most vulnerable have been vaccinated and that’s keeping this demographic’s death rates below what we saw in the previous two waves.
Despite the virus raging on, many are experiencing what is known as pandemic fatigue – a burnout and subsequent relaxing of safety precautions. Unfortunately, the normalization of non-compliant behaviour can have serious consequences, and we are seeing the impacts of this trend in dentistry. Outbreaks in dental practices have occurred (lunchrooms being the most recognized culprit), resulting in practices being required to shut down for several weeks. Unfortunately, the ramifications of an outbreak in the practice go beyond the illness and exposure, resulting in lost business and reduced patient confidence in practice safety precautions.
While we have all understandably grown weary of this pandemic and the toll it has taken on our emotional health, now is not the time to let our guards down. We must remain vigilant until Canada’s vaccination effort dismantles variants of concern.
The following tips can aid you in staying vigilant through this third—and hopefully final—wave.
- Follow IPAC best practices. You can drastically reduce the risk of contracting the virus by following IPAC best practices in the office and making wise personal decisions outside the office. Wearing a mask and practicing proper hand hygiene and physical distancing are three tried and true risk mitigation strategies for inside and outside the clinic. Visit your provincial regulatory and health authority websites for the latest IPAC guidelines in dentistry.
- Educate yourself with the facts. There is plenty of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines making its way around the internet. While doing your due diligence, it is critical to question the source of information and to rely on evidence-based research and facts to make informed decisions. Visit the Government of Canada website or consult your local public health unit for the most up-to-date and factual information on COVID-19 and vaccines in Canada. Everything we do carries a risk, including getting vaccinated. The overwhelming consensus, however, is that not getting vaccinated carries a greater risk.
- Don’t travel unless it’s essential. After being cooped up indoors for over one year now, it is only natural to crave a change in scenery. However, the Public Health Agency of Canada has made it very clear that now is not the time to travel. Variants of concern in Canada have been linked to international travel. And it’s not just travelling outside of the country that’s a problem. Increasing rates of COVID-19-positive passengers among domestic flights have also been reported.
- Get vaccinated. Vaccinations are underway across the country, and the federal government has projected there will be enough doses available to vaccinate every Canadian by September 2021. Vaccines have proven to be safe and effective, and are our ticket out of this pandemic. Click here for information on how to get vaccinated near you. When your time comes, get the jab!
- Monitor your mental health. Life during a pandemic is inherently stressful. It is more important than ever to make your mental health a top priority. Learn more about how labelling your feelings can help reduce stress and anxiety. A list of available Canada-wide mental health resources can also be found here.
- Keep the faith. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s getting brighter. However, this final push, the decisions we make and the actions we take, directly impact how much more road there is ahead of us. We must continue to stay vigilant and collectively do our parts to eliminate the virus and return to normal. Say no to a fourth wave and let’s reach the finish line together!
About the Authors
Elaine and Jaime are registered dental hygienists who work closely together on dentalcorp’s Compliance team. Together they bring experience in clinical, regulatory, and educational capacities. They are passionate about infection prevention control and assisting practices in providing safe and effective patient care. They have guided and supported over 400 practices through the Covid-19 processes required across Canada.