As Canada continues to makes strides with vaccinations, and Ontario slowly eases COVID-19 restrictions, a question in people’s minds may well be “what’s next?”
During a virtual event hosted by Queen’s University in Kingston, a panel of local experts with ties to the school discussed what a post-pandemic world could potentially look like. The group analyzed multiple parts of people’s everyday lives and discussed how social, workplace and school environments will change.
“I have to say, after about 15 months … I am done, I’m good. I’ve had my fill of living through history,” said journalist and panel moderator Elamin Abdelmahmoud, in reference to experiencing a worldwide pandemic.
The four diverse experts shared their thoughts on life after COVID-19, offering up some hope.
“We are definitely moving forward, we are emerging out of this. Vaccines are the answer,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, the chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University.
Evans answered what he describes as a common question — would people need COVID-19 vaccine booster shots at some point?
“We don’t really know yet about the booster effects. Some of that is going to relate to the emergence of the vaccine-escape variants,” said the infectious diseases expert.
“None of the variants at the moment escape full vaccination. Full vaccination protects you from all variants to date,” the doctor said.
Dr. Allyson Harrison, a psychologist with Queen’s University spoke on “pandemic-brain,” which is the informal way to refer to the way lockdowns and the virus have impacted people’s attention spans.
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“It’s actually a really normal response to continued levels of stress and anxiety. When people are stressed and anxious all the time it affects their attention, your concentration,” said Dr. Harrison.
However, once the threat of COVID-19 starts to lift, the psychologist said that people will begin to see improvements in their focus and anxiety.
The panelists also spoke about how kids have had to adjust in a big way, shifting from in-person learning, to online.
Scott McFarlane, a local elementary school vice principal said that students returning for face-to-face learning after a long break will be re-introduced to healthy distractions.
“Some of the things that distract kids at school are good things. Things like sports, things like clubs. We could look at it as a distraction, but we could also look at it as a balance, and I think that we’ve been lacking that balance for the last little while,” explained McFarlane.
Tina Dacin, a strategy and leadership professor with Queen’s University, explained that the pandemic allowed people to re-imagine what a workweek could look like going forward.
“I think the thing we’re realizing is that people can work effectively from home and so maybe we’re gonna start to move towards a hybrid model, where you work some at home, some at work,” said Dacin.
The experts wrapped up the panel by discussing the shift that will happen with some of the social interactions that have been forbidden for more than a year.
They suggested the next time one wants to hug someone or even just shake a hand, consent would have to be asked in advance.