We've been physically distancing and following enhanced hand hygiene practices, coughing into our elbows, and wearing face coverings in public places for months as we weathered the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mind you, there is a plausible argument we should have been doing at least a couple of those things all along, pandemic or not. Although it's been just over one year with mask mandates here at home, some might forget many Canadians were initially reluctant to wear masks.
Even as concerns in medical circles grow regarding the transmission of the Delta variant of the virus and the possibility of a fourth wave in late summer or early fall if areas are reopened too rapidly, gathering limits and mask mandates have been lifted across the United States and, in select areas, Canada, to varying degrees of success.
However, it likely won't happen in Ontario for several weeks: Capacity limits are out, but masks will stay on after Step 3 of Ontario's reopening
From a public health standpoint, hand hygiene and sleeve-coughing should remain. Many will continue to put a buffer up around them in public spaces. Others will gladly pitch their masks into the trash without a second thought while others will continue the practice.
What will happen when we venture out without the masks? What will be our post-pandemic health concerns as public health measures ease?
Besides COVID-19, "The restrictions have protected us from other infectious illnesses and viruses, as well," said Dr. Carol Zimbalatti, Public Health Physician for the Health Unit, nodding to this most recent diminished flu season.
"It is possible, once we see the restrictions lifting somewhat, we get a resurgence of other infectious illnesses, particularly respiratory illnesses that have been restricted by the public health measures," added Zimbalatti.
For this reason, the Health Unit encourages people to get not only the COVID-19 vaccination but also the flu shot this fall. "There is the chance it could be a worse flu season than we have seen recently," said Zimbalatti.
Shots are typically available as flu season approaches through the Health Unit, primary care providers, and local pharmacies.