According to the chief public health officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam’s statement on COVID-19 on July 15, the Wellness Together Canada online portal provides free and confidential mental health guidance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help them through the stresses and anxieties of COVID-19. There is also a free companion app called Pocketwell that can also assist Canadians dealing with the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic by providing further mental health guidance.
Tam says that nationally both COVID-19 disease activity and severity indicators have gone up in recent weeks, as Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant takes hold across the country. She says that all indicators, from weekly case counts to laboratory test positivity to average daily numbers of COVID-19 cases are rising nationally.
Tam says that the Public Health Agency of Canada is continuously keeping tabs on COVID-19 variants like Omicron and its subvariants, and that due to BA.5, a subvariant of Omicron, increases in cases over the coming weeks are likely. She says that while infection acquired immunity rose in Canada during the first several months of the Omicron wave of COVID-19, according to the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, re-infection is still possible due to the subvariants being seen from Omicron, especially with those not vaccinated. Therefore, she stresses how important it is to keep up to date with vaccinations, both the primary shots and the booster shots.
Tam also announced that Health Canada had authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for children under five years of age, with the Moderna Spikevax mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (25 mcg), for use as two dose primary series of shots in those aged six months to five years of age, and the guidelines under which these vaccinations should be given to those in this age group.
Tam also urges people to keep practicing good personal protective habits to stall the spread of COVID-19 and remain healthy and virus free.
In Canada as of July 15, there were 24,872 new cases of COVID-19 reported over last week and 162 new deaths reported. Between July 4 and July 11, the total number of COVID-19 occupied hospital beds increased from 3,552 to 4,105, while the number of ICU beds in that period increased from 179 to 209.
In Ontario, as of July 14, there were an estimated 1,635 cases as of that day. There were 1,014 hospitalizations and 118 people reported in the ICU as July 13. There were 14,438 deaths reported this week as of July 16 since the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of 1,242 cases over the past two weeks.
In Hastings Prince Edward, as of July 12, there were 103 new high-risk cases and active high-risk cases amounted to 83 people. There were seven outbreaks in high-risk settings like LTC homes, and there were 63 deaths reported. There are two people currently hospitalized at Quinte Health Care hospitals and nobody in the ICU.
LTC homes in Canada see large rise in COVID-19 infections
Long term care homes in some provinces are seeing a large increase in COVID-19 infections as Canada experiences its seventh wave.
In the first week of July, COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario LTC homes nearly doubled, with a total of 42 cases reported during the week of July 3 to 9. According to Ontario’s public health data, that’s a 110 per cent increase over the prior week’s 20 reported cases.
While Ontario had a policy in place to have people immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine who worked at, volunteered at or visited LTC homes, this policy was discontinued in March, so that requirement is no longer enforced.
In Quebec, in 38 out of 106 LTC facilities, over 25 per cent are infected with COVID-19, according to the latest data from the province. For residents in 19 other facilities, between 15 per cent and 25 per cent are infected with the virus. There has also been a spike in cases within the ranks of healthcare workers. Quebec’s public health officials expect the cases to stabilize over the next few weeks.
Four LTC facilities had an active COVID-19 outbreak in British Columbia as of July 13, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Health, although enhanced protective measures had been enacted. The province says they’ll continue to keep these measures in place to protect their most vulnerable citizens.
According to Alberta’s provincial data, COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at 12 LTC facilities as of July 13, including five facilities in Calgary and one in Edmonton. Alberta’s public health officials urge their residents to keep up to date with their vaccinations to stunt the spread of the virus.
In Nunavut, no outbreaks have been reported by the territory’s health department.
Manitoba has also reported no outbreaks in their LTC facilities but there was an overall increase in reported cases from the prior week.
Public health officials strongly recommend keeping up to date with vaccinations, keeping up with protective measures like N95 mask usage, proper hand sanitation and rapid testing for staff and visitors. However, they also strongly discourage any more lockdowns of LTC facilities as having dubious merit compared to other strategies of keeping COVID-19 numbers down or negating them all together.
More than 96 per cent of eligible LTC residents had gotten their third COVID-19 doses in Ontario as of July 12, and over 80 per cent of those who are eligible had gotten a fourth dose, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care. Also, as of July 12, over 88 per cent of eligible staff had gotten their third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times