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COVID-19 activity showing early signs that it may be increasing, new PHAC data says



COVID-19 infections may be slowly starting to rise again in Canada, new data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests.

“There are signs of continued fluctuations in some COVID-19 activity indicators after a long period of gradual decline,” the agency’s online epidemiology update said on Tuesday.

“This may be an early sign of increases in activity.”

COVID-19 activity is still low to moderate across the provinces and territories, the update said.


Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.

“I think the solid evidence is that COVID is coming back (in Canada),” she said, noting that noticeable increased activity likely won’t happen for “another few weeks at least.”

Public health experts are using wastewater surveillance across the country and COVID-19 test positivity rates to determine the level of COVID-19 activity.

Although COVID PCR testing in the general public has largely stopped, people are still tested if they are hospitalized or if they have COVID symptoms and are potential candidates for Paxlovid treatment, McGeer said.

Waning immunity as vaccines wear off, the presence of new subvariants and the fact that people will be moving indoors in the fall are all factors that will play a role in the rise of cases, she said.

XBB subvariants of the Omicron variant accounted for 99 per cent of COVID-19 cases that were genetically sequenced the week of July 16, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

The “daughter” of the XBB.1 family, EG.5, is expected to start dominating in the coming weeks, said Dawn Bowdish, an immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

EG.5 appears to have more immunity-evading properties than other variants and is therefore likely to be more contagious, Bowdish said.

There’s no sign that EG.5 is more virulent, meaning more likely to cause serious illness among otherwise healthy people, she said.

But the fact it’s more contagious, Bowdish said, means it’s still a significant threat.

“One of the universal truths in infectious disease is having a more contagious variant that’s a little bit less virulent actually causes more death and disability than a highly virulent one that’s less contagious because it can just find those vulnerable people,” she said.

More people could be vulnerable this fall, Bowdish said, because many people in Canada didn’t get the bivalent booster shot, which provided protection against Omicron and its subvariants.

Also, as a member of the Omicron family, EG.5 “does not seem to be any less likely to cause long COVID or long-term chronic health issues than the earlier variants,” she said.

An increase in COVID-19 cases will once again take the heaviest toll on seniors and people who are immunocompromised, both Bowdish and McGeer said.

“Vaccination this fall will preserve the lives and health of older adults,” McGeer said.

Because the updated vaccines against COVID-19 expected this fall were developed to target Omicron’s XBB subvariant family, they will likely “have really great efficacy at both preventing severe infection, but also at least temporarily reducing the risk of symptomatic disease,” Bowdish said.

In an email, the Public Health Agency of Canada said it’s not known for sure when a significant rise in cases might happen.

“Although seasonality of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been established, other respiratory viruses such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) typically increase in the fall and winter months,” a spokesperson said.

“COVID-19 vaccination can help increase protection and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health system while these other viruses are circulating.”

It’s not yet known when the new formulations of COVID-19 vaccines will become available.

In addition to getting the vaccine when it becomes available, public health agencies across the country continue to advise staying home when feeling sick as a protective measure against spreading COVID-19.

Mask mandates across Canada have largely been lifted, but are still in place in patient-care areas of many hospitals, especially in the Greater Toronto Area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2023.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.



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The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life




Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.

That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.

What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?

Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.

Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.


Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations

As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.

Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:

  1. Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
  2. Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
  3. Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.

Determining a Fair Payment Plan

Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.

Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.

Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers

When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:

  • Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
  • Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
  • Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
  • Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.


Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.

Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.

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Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home



THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.

The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.

No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.

Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.




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Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister



Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.

Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.

“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”


Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.

“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.

LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.

“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.

The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.

LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.

On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.

“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.

“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.

She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.

Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.

LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.

“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.

–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News



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