We asked our fellow Rotary Member, Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, for advice regarding our in-person meetings. The overriding question is, “How do we keep our members from getting or transmitting COVID-19 during our weekly meetings?”
1/ First off, everyone should have three vaccines. When people become eligible for the fourth dose, it is recommended for extra protection.   Most people had their third dose sometime in December or Jan which means their immunity to COVID is starting to wane and will likely be non-existent by June.  We may have a window of safety for the next month or so.  
 
2/ Omicron and its sub variant, BA.2 are very transmissible.  BA.2 is likely more transmissible.  Cloth masks are out and surgical masks are of little value.  If there is any gaping with a surgical mask, Omicron will get in.  I would recommend N95 masks for all in person gatherings; tight fitting with no gaps.  It needs to feel like a suction cup on your face.  3M N95 masks can be purchased through Staples online.  The group may want to consider buying these for people who are gathering in person and handing them out at the door.
 
3/ We should be a little distanced at each table.  One recommendation might be to sit people in every second chair.
 
4/ Keep the mask on as much as possible.  Take it off to put food or drink in only and put it back on in between bites.
 
5/ BA.2 causes more gastro-intestinal symptoms which means, it could be passed on surfaces through hands that have touched an infected person’s mouth.  That is not good news.  There is no guidance on this aspect of the variant and there will not likely be any guidance.  We are dumping all restrictions.  It will be like the wild, wild west.  We will all be exposed.  Hand sanitizer at the entrance and on each table will remind people to use it frequently during the meeting.  For example, on entry, before eating and after eating.
 
6/ Finally, and this is a given, no one should attend if they have any upper respiratory symptoms like congestion, sore throat, cough, runny nose and no one should attend if they have gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting or nausea.
 
This sounds pretty old school but if we are all going to be exposed, the secret will be minimal exposure and minimal illness.  All of these measure will limit the amount of virus we are exposed to and thus the severity of illness we live with if exposed.
 
I would go to meetings in person and I am heading back to church.  We have to get back to living in person again.  Taking masks off is just sheer stupidity especially for those who are older than 60 or immunocompromised.  There are ways to limit our exposure so that the illness we get is not severe; a head cold that passes in 5 days or so with no need for oxygen support and very low risk of developing long haul symptoms.
 
I hope this helps.
 
AM

Thanks,

Anne-Marie Zajdlik, MD CCFP O.Ont, MSM
Founder of ARCH Clinic Guelph and Waterloo
Founding Director of Bracelet of Hope
Founder of Hope Health Centre

Bracelet of Hope
www.braceletofhope.ca