After a year of COVID-19, Dr. Heather Morrison looks back — and ahead

·2 min read
Dr. Heather Morrison has become a familiar face to all Islanders, 12 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC - image credit)
Dr. Heather Morrison has become a familiar face to all Islanders, 12 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC - image credit)

One year ago, virtually overnight, P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison went from being just another government official to being one of the province's most important leaders.

Previously heard from occasionally regarding the flu, stomach viruses or drug overdoses, Morrison began giving daily briefings and making crucial decisions about protecting Islanders from COVID-19.

"I think I shared the same kinds of feelings that everybody did on P.E.I. — that fear of the unknown," Morrison told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier on Monday about those early days in March 2020.

"We were anxious, but we were making those decisions and making them as quickly as we could to try to protect people from what we certainly, at that time, expected to arrive here."

In those days, she was thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic as something that would go on for weeks, not months.

"Maybe it's just as good that we didn't know," she said.

"It has been a long year for everyone."

The Island advantage

There were some dire forecasts about what could happen on the Island — more than 100 in hospital and nine dead by June — but the province was able to keep the virus at bay.

"Being an Island certainly helped us," said Morrison. "Every Islander was impacted, but it was those actions of every Islander together that actually saved lives in P.E.I.

"If people hadn't responded the way they had and followed these public health measures, the outcome really would have been different here. I'm filled with gratitude and pride at the way we all worked together."

Big challenges still lie ahead, said Morrison, as the province works toward getting everyone who's eligible a first dose of vaccine by July 1.

Early delays in delivery seem to be over; Morrison said she heard again on Friday that more doses of vaccine than previously expected would be arriving.

Getting everyone vaccinated is the next big challenge in the pandemic.
Getting everyone vaccinated is the next big challenge in the pandemic.(Kirk Pennell/CBC)

The Chief Public Health Office and Health PEI are now focused on the logistics of getting those vaccines into arms.

COVID-19 is unlikely to go away, said Morrison, but she hopes that a year from now it will no longer be a daily source of anxiety and uncertainty.

She's looking forward to the day it will be just a part of her run-of-the-mill discussions of flu and stomach viruses she was focused on before the pandemic started.

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