Seventh wave of COVID-19 hits Sudbury area

·2 min read

Like much of Ontario, Sudbury is already feeling the effects of new subvariants fuelling a seventh wave of COVID-19, according to Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

“In our catchment area, the COVID cases that are accounted for, half of them are the BA.5 variant,” said Justeen Mansourian, a public health nurse in the organization’s health protection division.

Along with another subvariant dubbed BA.4, BA.5 is a mutation of the Omicron variant that first appeared late last year. Public health officials in Ontario have raised concerns that the new subvariants are beginning to dominate COVID transmission, with BA.5 accounting for 50 per cent of new cases in the province, and BA.4 40 per cent.

According to Mansourian, Public Health has noticed similar trends in the Sudbury-Manitoulin region.

“The issue with this strain is that it can cause what we call reinfection,” she said. “That means people who had COVID in the past can get infected again. It can also cause breakthrough infections. That means infections in people who have been fully vaccinated.”

Accurate reporting on new variant case numbers are difficult to determine, Mansourian said, because streamlined testing has meant infections aren’t being reported like they were before.

“If there are COVID cases in the community, we’re not going to be made aware of all of them,” she said. “If people develop symptoms, most of them are antigen testing and home, and those aren’t always reported to Public Health.”

Instead, Public Health has been evaluating viral load in wastewater, keeping track of hospitalization rates, ICU case numbers, and outbreaks across the city.

While Mansourian said there is concern about the variants’ rapid spread, members of the public are encouraged to continue the same precaution they’ve practised since the pandemic started more than two years ago.

“Although some of the provincial mandates have been lifted, from a public health perspective, we’re still going to encourage people and ask them to mask as much as possible when they’re in a public place, especially if they’re in an indoor public place and if that place is overcrowded,” she said. “(With the new variants) it’s really important to be proactive and take those precautions.”

She also encourages the public to continue maintaining hand hygiene, and the self-screen daily. If you have any symptoms, stay home and get tested, she said. At-home rapid antigen test kits are currently available for free at several supermarkets and pharmacies across the city.

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Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star

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