Masks are off! Now what?

The restrictions have been lifted, mask mandate is out…..NOW WHAT?

Since March 2020, we have been living with the Covid 19 pandemic, the unknowns of this new virus, the constant buzz of the media around this topic, the loss of loved ones to this virus and seeing friends and family and ourselves contract the virus.  We have also been very diligent in getting vaccinated such that our vaccination rate is one of the highest in the world at 82.2%.

And after having lived for almost 2 years with restrictions and mask mandates, the mandates have finally been lifted and we don’t really know what to make of it.

  • Is the pandemic over? if so then why is the media talking about a 6th wave?
  • Should I be wearing a mask? what about others who are not wearing a mask? should that make me nervous?
  • Should we just go back to normal? then why I am still afraid and anxious?
  • Should we be worried about the variants?

These are all legitimate questions that many of our clients have been dealing with.

I did some research around this issue and here is what I think:

  • The reason why the restrictions were put in place at the beginning of the pandemic was to ensure that our health care system doesn’t collapse with the increased number of patients needing hospitalizations.  There was a need to control community spread of the virus as our health care system did not have the resources to treat the increased number of sick people
    • With over 80% of people vaccinated and many more people having obtained immunity by being infected with the virus, our overall immunity is high which means that less people are likely to get severely ill with the virus.  The burden on the health care system is much lower even if the community spread is high.  Repeat exposure to the virus (after having made antibodies to the virus through vaccine or infection) leads to milder symptoms in most people which means they are less likely to need health care resources. Therefore it makes sense to loosen the restrictions and ease into normalcy.
  • All viruses mutate and that is just the nature of viruses and the covid 19 virus is no different.  We will keep seeing more variants but they don’t all have to be dangerous.  The flu virus changes every year but doesn’t become more deadly.  Keeping this in mind, the medical experts are saying that the pandemic has 3 possibilities for the future.
    • becoming an endemic infection – an infection that is present in the community at a stable rate like the common cold virus OR
    • becoming seasonal like the flu virus with peaks in fall and winter with localized outbreaks.  OR
    • virus mutating into a more contagious & virulent entity: this is by far the worst case scenario that is unlikely to happen but it is a possibility and unfortunately it is the possibility that the media focuses on.

All of the above scenarios are possible & not just the worst case scenario (although the media would have us believe otherwise) and most medical experts are leaning towards the first 2 scenarios.

  • We now have a publicly funded anti-viral medication approved by Health Canada and available through pharmacies for those at high risk.  It is called PAXLOVID and it is available to those individuals who are at high risk of experiencing more serious outcomes from a covid 19 infection.  You need to meet certain criteria to be eligible to receive this medication and your doctor or pharmacist can help assess your eligibility for this drug.  It’s a 5 day treatment course that must be started within 5 days of a positive covid 19 test.  It has interactions with many drugs so please ensure that you get it filled from your regular pharmacy where all your medication records are kept.
  • We also now have access to publicly funded home antigen tests (available at most pharmacies) so if you are experiencing symptoms you can now do a home test and ISOLATE.  This means most people who are capable of transmitting are isolating and not spreading the virus.  If you don’t know how to use the testing kits, please get in touch with your pharmacy and remember if you get 2 lines on the test it means you are positive and you must STAY HOME & ISOLATE UNTIL YOU HAVE NO SYMPTOMS
  • What about masking?
    • Masking works to reduce the spread of respiratory infections.  The evidence in support of masking has increased through the pandemic.  Masking works in 2 ways
      • as a source control to prevent spread from infected persons
      • as a protection to reduce wearer’s exposure to infection. 
    • Covid 19 spreads in 2 ways
      • touching contaminated surfaces and then touching our mouth, nose or eyes. 
      • Respiratory droplets exhaled when infected people breath, talk, cough, sneeze or sing in close proximity & in indoor enclosed spaces where an infected person is present for an extended period of time.  (
    • Masking works as a public health measure to stop community spread not only because it protects others from an infected person but protects you from catching it from an infected person.
    • So should we continue to mask?
      • if you are in a large, crowded, indoor space for an extended period of time where you may get exposed to individuals who may be carrying the virus then you may choose to wear a mask.  Even if others aren’t wearing it, your mask does protect you.
      • Since masking is no longer mandated to control community spread, it is a personal choice and should be respected.  Although I do suspect that once we are in the winter cold & flu season, many more people may choose to wear it in indoor crowded spaces.
      • if you choose to mask or not mask, remember that most of us now have immunity through vaccine and or infection.  Immunity from a virus can exist in the form of antibodies as well as cellular memory.  This means that when we get exposed to the virus (including the variants), we are able to mount an immune response much more quickly & efficiently leading to a less severe illness. 
      • Washing hands frequently and not touching your mouth, nose and eyes is still one of the best protection available to us from any virus 
  • Our immune system is still our best friend.  At the end of the day, it is still our immune system that protects us from all kinds of viruses including covid 19. All of us can take steps to support our immune system with diet, supplements and positive mindset.  You can check out the blog I wrote at the beginning of the pandemic on how to support our immune system.
  • Fear is not immune supportive.  Knowing all that we know about the pandemic and its future course and the availability of medications and booster shots for those at higher risk of infection, we can now safely let go of fear and move into trust and faith.  It may seem hard for many of us to do so but it is possible through mindset work.  Constant worry and fear about the future puts our body in the flight & fight mode and suppresses our immune system when we need it the most.


Yours in Health & Wellness,

Aziza Amarshi, BSc, RPh, RHN

Pharmacist| Holistic Nutritionist| Wellness Coach