Joe Lunn has spoken out against lifting pandemic rules to protect the vulnerable. He died after contracting COVID-19

An immunocompromised man from Thunder Bay, Ont., who feared the consequences of relaxed public health measures died last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

Joe Lunn, a heart transplant recipient, told CBC News in March he was concerned about the Ontario government’s decision to remove vaccination certificates in public places.

He had also expressed concerns about his plans to end mask mandates, saying he felt safer in public when others were also taking precautions against the spread of the virus.

« I’ve fought too hard to stay alive to give up because you feel embarrassed by four by four inch fabric, » he said at the time.

I feel like immunocompromised people as we continue to go through this continue to get closer and closer to the fear of death.– Michelle Burleigh, founder of the Facebook group

Lunn had spent much of 2022 battling health issues, including signs of organ rejection, her sister Vierlyn Lunn said.

Although he limited his contacts to a few family members and people involved in providing home care and cardiac rehabilitation, Lunn tested positive for the virus in a PCR test he was scheduled to take to cardiac rehab, Vierlyn said.

« He didn’t feel great to start that day, » she said of the day he got the call about the results.

« And then that night…he had told my mom he couldn’t breathe….My older sister took him to the ER, and he was in the ER for two days. And the morning of the third, they took him to the ER. sent to intensive care. And by five o’clock he was dead. »

Mon was 51 years old.

« When things [pandemic restrictions] was lifted … the mentality that I found in a lot of people – they just wanted their life back to normal, and it didn’t matter who it would affect in the long run, » Vierlyn said.

She will remember her brother as an intelligent, funny, loving and empathetic man who was a great conversationalist.

The group wants more protections

Michelle Burleigh, founder and co-administrator of the Facebook group Immunocompromised People are Not Expendable, said some immunocompromised people fear contracting COVID-19 and more needs to be done to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I feel like immunocompromised people as we continue to go through this continue to get closer and closer to the fear of death,” Burleigh said.

Michelle Burleigh, who founded the Facebook group Immunocompromised People are Not Expendable, says some immunocompromised people are increasingly concerned about dying from COVID-19 as society rolls back protective measures. (Submitted by Michelle Burleigh)

The government does not appear to consider the safety of vulnerable people in its decision-making, leading to higher numbers of COVID cases than necessary, she said, and the relative lack of data collection leads people to act more carelessly.

Burleigh believes people should still be required to wear masks in places such as grocery stores and pharmacies that were deemed essential during the early stages of the pandemic and are difficult for vulnerable people to avoid.

But Dr. Leighanne Parkes, an infectious disease and medical microbiology specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said it was time society voluntarily took responsibility for protecting the vulnerable.

Evidence suggests universal masking and staying home during illness reduce the spread of the virus, Parkes said, but it makes sense to stop making them mandatory once most people have been vaccinated or infected. .

« We need to get back to that sense of normalcy, » she said.

dr leighanne parkes
Dr. Leighanne Parkes, an infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at the Jewish General Hospital, said Canadians need to let go of the idea that going to work while sick is noble. (Communications from the Jewish General Hospital)

It also made sense for the government to drop vaccination certificates once it was clear those vaccinated could still transmit COVID-19, she said.

But Parkes said removing government measures to control the spread of viruses such as COVID creates an imperative for society to follow public health guidelines.

She pointed to parts of Asia that previously struggled with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and bird flu where it is part of a culture of respect to wear masks when respiratory viruses are spreading, to stay home when sick and to make an effort to avoid spreading disease.

Canadians must continue to demand paid time off for employees so they can afford to stay home when sick, she added.

Vierlyn Lunn has conflicting feelings around government COVID-19 policy, she said, noting she also understands the desire for some semblance of pre-pandemic normality.

But Lunn criticizes those who say they shouldn’t be expected to make sacrifices for vulnerable members of the population.

« I completely agree that you should live your life, » she said.

« But if you honestly and knowingly put someone else at risk for your own selfishness. I think that person really needs to be self-policing. »

covid re opening presser ontario
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced an easing of COVID-19 restrictions this year, saying it was time for the province to move forward. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

When Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced in March that mask mandates would be lifted, he said that while that didn’t mean the pandemic was over, it was time to move on. the front.

“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said in early March. « It requires moving to a more balanced response to the pandemic. »

Moore also warned at the time that masking requirements may eventually need to be reinstated if there was another spike in COVID-19 cases, and added that vulnerable people should continue to take precautions despite the easing. restrictions.

But Parkes, the infectious disease expert, said she doesn’t expect governments to reinstate mandatory masking given the outcry over public health mandates, she nevertheless urged people to wear them voluntarily while peak seasons, such as fall and winter. She also urged people to stay home when sick and to advocate for better health care.

“There are very fragile, very vulnerable people living among us,” she said. « We should care about them as much as we care about our family members and ourselves. »


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