Dr. Heather Morrison says the Omicron variant could mark the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In year-end interview with CBC News: Compass, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer said the highly contagious variant might start a transition toward a world where Islanders have learned to live with COVID-19.
"This is a transition point," Morrison said told host Louise Martin. "At some point in the future, we will be testing only those people… who are really sick with COVID. And I think that will happen maybe faster because of Omicron."
However, she also said much still needs to be done before we get there.
"Right now, we still need to get people boostered to try to protect us against severe outcomes, get our children vaccinated, try to slow things down and minimize the impact to Islanders — and then, transition to a time when there aren't many measures in place except some of the basic ones that we talked about way before COVID."
Morrison said all Islanders have been facing challenges in 2021.
She said the pandemic has taken a big toll on her own personal life too, and there have been times when she's considered leaving her job as the person responsible for managing COVID-19 in the province.
The abuse that she's received from a small group of Islanders who are against pandemic restrictions has been a big factor.
I'm surprised at some of the vitriol. And I wouldn't even think, let alone say, some of the things that I have seen. - Dr. Heather Morrison
"Some people are always going to be upset with certain decisions, so I recognize that," she said. "I do think some of the e-mails and what has been said — really, I'm surprised at some of the vitriol. And I wouldn't even think, let alone say, some of the things that I have seen.
"That's the part that I find the most challenging — not that people just don't want to be vaccinated and don't want to wear masks. When I see that, I think we need to do a better job explaining why and the science behind it."
Morrison said that while 2021 has not on the whole been a good year, there have been some positive developments, including high vaccination rates on the Island, a low amount of cases per capita compared to the rest of Canada, the implementation of the P.E.I. Pass, and the launch of a pediatric vaccine for children aged 5-11.
"The final thing is that although we had one person in the ICU who recovered, we didn't have any severe outcomes like death in the province, and really, that's what we want," she said. "We all want to make sure that all Islanders are healthy and safe."
But Morrison said Islanders should not drop their guard now that Omicron is in the province.
"We're all tired and weary. But we really have no choice," she said. "We didn't make Omicron. We're having to face it and deal with it.
"We'll do it together. We've done this far. And we're going to get through it."