On May 5th of this year, the World Health Organization declared the pandemic known as COVID-19 to be over. As cases died down, symptoms lessened, and masks disappeared, we collectively thought that we were in the clear. Unfortunately, that is not the case, especially in New Brunswick.
The “Pirola” Variant
One of COVID-19’s most defining factors was its ability to evolve. From its original to the “Omicron” variant, everytime we thought we had it beat, it adapted. This has proven to be the case once again as we now welcome its newest iteration known as “Pirola.”
Dr. Horacio Bach, a clinical assistant professor specializing in infectious diseases and an Immunity and Infection Research Centre researcher at the University of British Columbia, highlighted the importance of monitoring the “Pirola” variant. This variant carries 34 new spike protein mutations, potentially enhancing its reinfection capability and immunity evasion. New COVID variants, including “Pirola,” are showing increased contagiousness.
While the symptoms associated with the “Pirola” variant seem less severe than the Omicron variant, it still threatens those that are elderly or immunocompromised. This past week, New Brunswick recorded 57 more hospitalizations, two ICU intakes, and three deaths according to the CBC.
Public Awareness and Media Blackout
These most recent hospitalizations have brought the count up to a total of 366 covid intakes since August 27th. This leads some to wonder why the COVID panic seems to be at an all time low?
Public awareness and access to information about the resurgence of the virus appears limited. This can partly be attributed to a policy shift by “Meta,” the tech giant encompassing platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. The decision to restrict the sharing of news follows the passage of Bill C-18 in Canada this past June. This legislation intended to mandate payment from tech giants to news outlets each time their news stories were shared on their platforms. Consequently, the tech giants refused to pay and restriction on news sharing through these social media platforms has left many Canadians uninformed.
Despite the pandemic being officially declared over, COVID-19 and its mutations are here to stay. The emergence of the “Pirola” variant raises concerns in New Brunswick, particularly for the elderly and immunocompromised in our understaffed and overburdened medical system.
Moreover, the restriction on reporting leaves Canadians in a dire situation. So it’s time to strap ourselves back in, break out the masks and sanitizer, and get ready for one heck of a COVID/flu season.