COVID-19 pandemic is still ‘raging,’ experts say. How to stay safe heading into fall – National

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet, experts are warning, and they say Canadians should continue to take precautions during the fall months to protect themselves and the healthcare system from the virus and other seasonal illnesses.

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Health Sciences, warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet.

“(The pandemic) is raging like never before,” Deonandan told Global News.

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For the week of August 7-13, Canada had 24,161 cases of COVID-19, with Ontario having the highest number at 10,655 cases, according to Health Canada.

Although most areas in Canada appear to have reached or passed the peak of the current COVID-19 wave, the regional increase in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continues, Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam said in a tweet on Friday.

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“As SARSCoV2 continues to circulate globally, Canada needs to prepare for renewed COVID-19 activity, including potential new variants, in the coming months,” Tam wrote returning and children going back to school, updating immunizations is a top priority.”

Deonandan says the primary concern for now and the coming season is Canada’s healthcare system’s ability to accommodate patients’ needs.

Across Canada, hospitals and health services are experiencing high patient traffic due to staff shortages. This has resulted in longer waits in emergency rooms, a shortage of ambulances and even the closure of some units.

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By reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection, individuals can help healthcare workers ease the strain on the system as they struggle to keep up with demand, Deonandan said.


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COVID measures do not have to be perfect

Horacio Bach, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of British Columbia School of Medicine, believes many now feel COVID-19 is over because provincial governments have lifted some or most restrictions.

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“But we have to remember that we are dealing with this virus, which can peak at any time,” Bach said. “We don’t know when this is coming, so just take the same precautions you did when COVID-19 started and follow the guidelines we have in place from the start.”

Bach said Canada can expect an increase in cases in the fall and winter due to COVID-19 variants.

“These variants reinfect the person even if you’re vaccinated,” Bach said. “Even if you got COVID-19 recently or some time ago, you will still be infected because the antibodies we made against the virus are the antibodies against the original strain that came in late 2019, early 2020, and there is currently no vaccine against the new omicron virus.

“The moment these new variants emerged, they were able to evade the immune system, and it’s something natural as part of the evolution of the virus,” Bach said. “That’s why the vaccines we get aren’t as effective at stopping the infection.”

Bach suggested people should even wear a double mask to reduce the risk of infection.

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According to Deonandan, there’s a common misconception that COVID protocols need to be perfect.

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“You don’t have to be perfect. They have to be good, and every good layer of protection contributes to a higher level of protection,” he said.

“So masks are not perfect, but they are good. Vaccination is not perfect, but good. Symptom checks are definitely not perfect, but they are good,” said Deonandan.

“If you coordinate all of these things, you get exceptional protection.”

Bach said that since the protections we have now or the restrictions in place are “not as strict”, the virus continues to multiply.

“As the virus continues to multiply, a new variant can emerge anywhere, anytime, in anyone,” Bach said.

Don’t forget the flu

Deonandan says it’s impossible to make an accurate prediction of how COVID-19 will unfold in the fall, but he also warns of a spike in flu infections.

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“We have to prepare for a symptomatic (infected) population that resembles COVID, but that’s not COVID,” he said.

With the healthcare system already overwhelmed, the flu will put even more strain on the already strained sector, Deonandan said.

He adds that people should get the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available in Canada because “the flu is no joke.”

“I encourage people to take this opportunity to ease the strain on the hospital system and minimize their own personal suffering,” he said

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) National Influenza Annual Report, released in October 2021, there was no community spread during the 2020–2021 Canadian influenza season, with only 69 positive virus tests reported.


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Fall COVID guidelines: Expert tells Canadians to watch out for the flu, too


Fall COVID guidelines: Expert tells Canadians to watch out for the flu, too

PHAC notes in the report that influenza indicators were at “historic lows” compared to the previous six seasons, largely related to “the implementation of non-pharmaceutical public health measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.” related.

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A total of 55,379 laboratory influenza cases were reported during the 2019-2020 season, while there were 42,541 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in the 2018-2019 period, PHAC reported in its Fluwatch annual reports released in March 2021 and January 2022, respectively.

Influenza vaccination coverage has been similar since 2018, with an estimated 32 to 34 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 being vaccinated against the virus.

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza emerged with an annual infection rate estimated at five to 10 percent in adults and 20 to 30 percent in children, according to PHAC on its website.

While PHAC states that it is safe for people age 12 and older to get vaccinated against influenza at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine, the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommends that children ages five to 11 have a 14- day interval between a COVID-19 vaccination and other vaccines.

“This is to help better monitor possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccines,” it said. “Provinces and territories will decide on an interval for this age group as part of their vaccination programs.”

PHAC states that the flu shot can not only protect Canadians from the influenza virus, but also reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19 and the flu.

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COVID-19 safety measures when children return to school

With many returning to classrooms in September, Bach said parents should vaccinate their children as schools are like incubators for COVID-19.

Bach said in cases where the child is immunocompromised or gets certain treatments or some diseases again, parents should keep masking their children as it is the easiest way to protect everyone.

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As of August 14, 87.41 percent of Canadians ages 12 to 17 are vaccinated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 55.38 percent of those ages five to 11 have at least one dose.

“I think parents need to remember that vaccination is important to reduce the risk of infection, reduce the risk of transmission, and most importantly, reduce the risk of your child being hospitalized,” Deonandan said.

“But don’t just trust your Facebook friend,” Deonandan said. “Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns (about vaccinations).”

Deonandan suggests parents give their children quality masks like the N95 caliber to reduce the risk of infection.

But he adds that high-quality masks can be expensive, especially for low-income families.

Schools and governments should therefore step up and support families to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE) wherever they can, Deonandan said.

Regarding school administrations, the implementation of a mask mandate is crucial, according to Deonandan.

In situations where a mask requirement cannot be enforced, schools must ensure all staff are fully vaccinated and do their best to contain the spread of COVID-19, Deonandan said.


© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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