According to Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam’s June 8 statement on COVID-19 in Canada to a House of Commons health committee, the pandemic is still going on, a seventh wave this fall is likely and being prepared for it is key to being successful in curbing its effects. This is especially true with the Omicron variant to consider as well as any other variants that are likely to materialize over the coming months.
Tam said that two doses of the vaccine afford 20 per cent protection against Omicron, while the third dose raises that figure to 60 per cent. While the vaccines provided greater protection against the initial COVID-19 virus, Omicron has proven to have milder symptoms and is less likely to have a severe outcome.
As of June 10 in Canada, there were 16,285 cases reported in the seven days prior, with 202 deaths over that same period. From May 30 to June 6, the total number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients went from 4298 to 3628, while the number of ICU beds decreased from 241 to 193.
In Ontario, as of June 11, there were 659 new cases reported. There were 528 hospitalizations and 110 people reported in the ICU as of that day, There were 13,324 deaths reported this week since the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of 36 cases since last week.
In Hastings Prince Edward, as of June 9, there were 23 new high-risk cases and active high-risk cases amounted to 53 people. There were four outbreaks in high-risk settings like LTC homes, and there were 61 deaths reported. There are four people who are currently hospitalized at Quinte Health Care hospitals and nobody in the ICU.
Canadian study finds link between air pollution and severity of COVID-19 infections
A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in May has found links between levels of air pollutants and the severity of COVID-19 infections thousands of patients in Ontario hospitals experience.
The scientists in the study say this adds to existing evidence that air pollution can be fatal. More than 150,000 COVID-19 cases were examined in Ontario in 2020 and how many were admitted to hospital because of COVID-19, how many were transferred to the ICU and how many passed away.
Three common pollutants were looked at as having potential exacerbating factors with these COVID-19 patients; fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, which combined create smog. After combining the health and pollution data, using statistical methods to remove the effects of over 10 different factors like pre-existing conditions and economic status, researchers were able to show a more severe reaction to the virus with higher levels of long-term exposure to these air contaminants.
While admission to hospital and to the ICU increased with every 25 per cent increase in fine particles that someone was exposed to, the scientists found no links between fatality rates and exposure to these fine particles. While the effects were smaller for nitrogen dioxide than fine particles, the effects were larger for ground level ozone. For every 25 per cent increase in exposure to ground level ozone, chances of hospital admissions increased 15 per cent, ICU admissions went up 30 per cent and an 18 per cent increase was seen in death rates.
The scientists in the study said that it looked at the immediate links between these pollutants and COVID-19 and not the long-term effects. They also say that it doesn’t establish that fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone actually caused the worsening of COVID-19 outcomes. However, the study’s scientists suspect they do as they irritate lungs and lung function and the virus is a pulmonary disease, and they stress that more study on this is needed.
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times