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Families and experts want more guidance for unvaccinated kids as Ontario reopens – 680 News

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Parents and experts say they want clearer guidance about how kids under 12 who aren’t eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations fit into Ontario’s reopening plan.

The province will allow more indoor activities to resume later this week but Stephen Ouderkirk says his family is sticking to outdoor social gatherings with their newborn son who can’t get vaccinated.

“We feel kind of stuck, where there’s clear guidance on what we can do individually but not us as a family,” he said in a recent interview.

“I know I can go into a restaurant and all that, but what can we do with him?”

Ouderkirk said he’d like clear guidelines from the province on how to navigate the months ahead, especially as he prepares to return to work as an elementary school teacher in the fall with students who also aren’t currently eligible for vaccines.

Experts have echoed his sentiment, saying young children and other unvaccinated populations shouldn’t be forgotten as jurisdictions start lifting pandemic measures that have defined the last year and a half of life.

As of Monday, 79 per cent of adults in Ontario had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 56 per cent were fully vaccinated. Youth aged 12 to 17, who were the last demographic group to become eligible for shots, had a 60 per cent first-dose coverage rate and a full vaccination rate of 20 per cent.

The pace of the vaccine rollout and drop in daily infections has led the province to speed up its reopening plan by several days, allowing gyms and restaurants to resume indoor operations this Friday while raising capacity limits for indoor social gatherings.


RELATED: SickKids study shows COVID-19 pandemic continues to greatly impact child and youth mental health


She says she’d like to see details on whether unvaccinated children will be subject to different guidelines when restrictions are eased further, and more assessment of where risks are greatest for them.

University of Toronto epidemiologist Ashleigh Tuite says young children are at risk of being left behind as restrictions roll back and says some rules like masking in public places should stay for now.

“I think we’re leaving them behind right now,” Tuite said.

Research indicates young kids aren’t as likely to become severely ill from COVID-19. But Tuite noted that those statistically rare outcomes will be seen more frequently as restrictions roll back and the virus circulates further among children, making it essential for some precautions to remain in place.

The Public Health Agency of Canada outlined activity guidelines based on people’s vaccination status last month but Ontario hasn’t released guidance specific to its reopening plan.

As one example, for someone non or partially vaccinated, gathering indoors with fully vaccinated individuals is allowed but with some measures in place.

Tuite pointed to masking in public places as an effective infection control measure that should stay in place as more businesses reopen. Face coverings will still be required under Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan and beyond, with the policy being re-assessed going forward.

Tuite also noted that the province needs a safety plan for reopening schools that goes beyond relying on vaccination rates in adults and older children.

“Vaccines help to reduce the risk of introduction of cases in the school setting, but they’re not going to alone serve to protect children once they’re in the school setting,” she said.

Last week Ontario’s top doctor began calls for all eligible people – especially young adults and teens – to get vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of the planned return to schools in September.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore noted last Tuesday that classes in Ontario schools, as well as many colleges and universities, are due to pick up in less than two months with the goal of holding more classes and extracurriculars in person.

“By getting vaccinated and reducing the risk at a community level, we protect our children,” Dr. Moore said late last week.

Ontario’s opposition parties have said the government needs to improve ventilation and mandate smaller class sizes as it prepares its back-to-school plan.

Pediatric infectious disease physician Dr. Nisha Thampi agreed that higher vaccination rates will help protect children but noted that the dynamic is complicated as people interact with others outside the home with different vaccination statuses.

Families with mixed vaccination status should keep following guidelines like staying home when sick, gathering outdoors where possible and wearing masks inside, she said.

She also stressed that people should keep up with regular handwashing to protect young children from other viruses that are expected to start circulating as social circles grow.

When it comes to how kids fit into the reopening plan, Thampi said she’d like to see more guidance about whether different rules will apply to them when restrictions roll back further, with details on what settings are most risky for them.

“It’s going to be messy when we hold kids to a higher standard of infection prevention than adults,” she said, pointing to the idea of vaccine passports, which were recently been announced in Quebec.

Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador have recently reflected considerations for families with mixed vaccine status in their pandemic policies, exempting young children of vaccinated parents from self-isolation rules when entering the provinces, an approach Thampi said makes sense.

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COVID Outbreak at Meno-Ya-Win in Sioux Lookout – ckdr.net

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Sioux Lookout’s Meno Ya Win Health Centre has declared a Covid-19 Outbreak after two patients were diagnosed with the virus.

Both patients have been in-patients for a long period of time, which indicates they contracted COVID-19 while at the hospital.

Effective immediately, visitation will be limited at SLMHC to two (2) designated visitors per patient.

Contact tracing is also underway at SLMHC. Anyone who is identified as a risk has been contacted.

“We have processes in place to provide the safest possible environment for our patients, staff and physicians. Our priority is to see this outbreak contained quickly,” says Douglas Semple, SLMHC President and CEO.

In addition to continuing daily screening and adherence to personal protective equipment standards, such as masks and eye protection,

SLMHC’s housekeeping department is following policies relating to increased cleaning and proper handling of an outbreak.

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Every 22 minutes a Canadian woman dies of a heart attack. Most of those deaths are preventable – CBC News

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Every 22 minutes, a woman in Canada dies of a heart attack. 

But the majority don’t have to, experts say, warning that more women will die unnecessarily if the medical community doesn’t tailor care to their needs.

“We have one of the best health-care systems in the world, and we’re not serving women,” said Dr. Paula Harvey, a cardiologist and head of the department of medicine at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “We have to do better.” 

Heart disease is a top killer of women in Canada, and the push to change that is more urgent than ever. Harvey says more younger women are presenting with classic high risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

“There’s this trend to cardiovascular risk factors starting to be a problem at an earlier age, and I find that disturbing,” said Harvey. “I never used to see a woman in her 40s with high blood pressure. I’m starting to see that, and that’s going to mean that we’ll have more premature heart disease.”

Dr. Paula Harvey, a cardiologist and head of the department of medicine at Women’s College Hospital, said women are often not counselled about how menopause and declining estrogen can affect their heart health. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

How hormone levels affect heart health

Some studies have already found the heart attack rate among women aged 35-54 has gone up.

Lifestyle factors play a role in the trend, but the threat itself is broader — the majority of Canadian women have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Women with diabetes and those who come from certain racial or ethnic backgrounds are at higher risk, but fluctuating hormones can wreak havoc with any woman’s heart health, especially as they enter menopause and levels of the heart-protecting hormone, estrogen, start to drop.

That transition starts when women are in their 40s and can catch many off guard, Harvey said.

“I do think that a lot of that comes from the fact that women are still not being educated, they’re not being counselled, they don’t understand the impact of our changing biology with age that puts them at cardiovascular risk.”

Heart disease kills 5 times more women than breast cancer

According to the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre, at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, 24,000 Canadian women die of heart disease every year. That’s nearly five times more deaths than from breast cancer. 

Yet when it comes to heart health, experts say it’s still largely a man’s world: Women remain underdiagnosed, undertreated and unaware.

Karin Humphries, an associate professor at UBC, studies the ways in which gender and sex differences can affect the diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of people with cardiovascular disease. (Submitted by Jessica Weingarten)

“It is a glass ceiling. It’s a glass ceiling for awareness, it’s a glass ceiling for research and for how we provide care,” said Karin Humphries, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia whose has researched gender and sex differences in the diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease.

The basic medical model is still male-dominated and contributes to a general lack of awareness among women and health-care providers, Humphries said. And while awareness is growing, it’s not growing fast enough, she said.

“Everything in our culture emphasizes that cardiovascular disease is a man’s disease. I mean, think of Hollywood. Every time you see a heart attack, it’s on the male, right? You’re not watching a woman in a Hollywood movie having a heart attack.”

Heart attack symptoms more subtle in women

Part of the problem is that women’s symptoms can be different than those of men and can be attributed by both doctors and women themselves to stress and busy lives. For example, months before a heart attack, women may experience unusual fatigue, trouble sleeping, indigestion and anxiety. 

Even during a heart attack, the symptoms can be subtle. Women are more likely to have chest discomfort, shortness of breath and even neck, jaw or back pain.

Risa Mallory had subtle symptoms in the days preceding her heart attack four years ago. Then suddenly, the pain in her chest became severe. Cardiac research has found that women often present with different symptoms than men when having a heart attack. (Brenda Witmer/CBC)

“I was still, you know, two months after my event, still reeling from that shock,” said Risa Mallory, who had a heart attack four years ago at age 61.

Mallory had been experiencing discomfort in her chest for several days, she said, but it came and went and didn’t seem so bad — until it suddenly was.

“On the fourth day, I experienced chest pain. It had changed. It was much more severe. I was feeling nauseous and I had this sense of fight or flight,” she recalled. “I remember sitting in the car, rocking, and saying, ‘We gotta go, we gotta go, we gotta go.'”

Mallory ended up in the emergency room and got help in time. But it was a close call. Heart disease runs in her family, she was aware of her own risk, but she still almost missed the warning signs.

WATCH | Why heart disease is often missed in women: 

What women need to know about heart disease

3 days ago

Duration 8:37

A woman in Canada dies of heart disease every 22 minutes, and most don’t have to. CBC’s Ioanna Roumeliotis explores why so many women are underdiagnosed and what they can do to protect themselves.

That’s something that happens often, according to a 2018 Heart and Stroke Foundation report. The report found that early signs of a heart attack were missed in 78 per cent of women. 

“What it tells us is that there are still a lot of inequalities and biases at the community level and the health-care provider level,” said Dr. Thais Coutinho, a cardiologist and chair of the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. 

Many women are in the dark, Coutinho said, in large part because much of the medical community is too. 

Most cardiac research done with male patients

Even now, the majority of heart disease research is conducted on men — despite important physiological differences, she said. Women’s hearts and arteries are smaller, and plaque builds in different ways. Standard diagnostic tests like angiograms and stress tests are often not sensitive enough to detect heart disease in women. 

“That assumption still permeates through the cardiovascular research community that women are small men,” Coutinho said. “I do a lot of sex- and gender-based research, or women-specific cardiovascular research, and it’s amazing the differences that you find if you look. All of the gaps that we know exist from awareness, diagnosis, treatment, care, rehabilitation, education, everything — it starts with knowledge. 

“So if we don’t even know what the differences are, we don’t know how to manage them.”

‘There’s something wrong with my heart’

Samia Janna was 48 when she first went to her doctor in 2018 because of shortness of breath. The Ottawa-area woman was prescribed anti-anxiety medication and told to take it easy. But the symptoms persisted.

Janna went back to her doctor twice more, only to be given the same advice

“At that time, I said, ‘No, I know it’s not anxiety,'” Janna says. “I know myself. There’s something wrong with my heart.”

At 48, Samia Janna found herself experiencing shortness of breath. Her doctor dismissed it as anxiety, but when symptoms continued Janna advocated for herself. In fact, an ultrasound revealed that her heart was enlarged. (Brenda Witmer/CBC)

Blood tests didn’t flag anything, but Janna insisted on an ultrasound to check her heart. It revealed Janna’s heart was enlarged and causing damage to her heart valves. She ended up having two open heart surgeries.

Janna says it was hard to let go of her anger about the fact that her concerns were initially dismissed. She joined a cardiac rehabilitation program and says it helped her regain her physical and emotional strength. “If it wasn’t for them. I would have been in a different place now, in a very dark place.”

Female patients less likely to get cardiac rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation can be critical for physical and emotional recovery, studies show — but gaps exist there too.

Research finds women are up to 50 per cent less likely than men to attend cardiac rehab programs, often because they don’t get referred to one or face other barriers to follow-up care, including a tendency to minimize their own needs.

It helps explain why women who have a heart attack are more likely to die or experience a second heart attack compared to men. 

Diagnostic tests for heart disease were designed for men, which means angiograms and stress tests are not always sensitive enough to pick up heart disease when it presents in women. (Goodluz/Shutterstock)

Harvey says research is beginning to uncover the biological, medical, and social reasons for this — and the hope is that new knowledge will lead to advances in tailoring prevention and treatment to women’s needs. 

But she points out, 80 per cent of heart attacks can be prevented and women can decrease major risk factors by managing high blood pressure, not smoking and sticking to a healthy weight. Harvey says women should also urge their doctors to check their hearts.

“We need to be empowered,” she says. “Knowledge is power. Advocacy is power. And do what you can so that you are aware of cardiovascular risk.”

And though prevention is key, Humphries says women should not hesitate to get help if they feel something is wrong. 

“Call 911 and ask for help. Don’t worry about, you know, taking up time for health-care providers. They’re there to help you. And if you find out there’s nothing wrong with you, that’s wonderful. But absolutely do not hesitate and call 911.”

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COVID-19 lockdown linked to HIV spike among some drug users, study says – Global News

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A new study says reduced access to HIV services during early COVID-19 lockdowns in British Columbia was associated with a “sharp increase” in HIV transmission among some drug users.

The study by University of British Columbia researchers says that while reduced social interaction during the March-May 2020 lockdown worked to reduce HIV transmission, that may not have “outweighed” the increase caused by reduced access to services.

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The study, published in Lancet Regional Health, found that fewer people started HIV antiretroviral therapy or undertook viral load testing under lockdown, while visits to overdose prevention services and safe consumption sites also decreased.

The overall number of new HIV diagnoses in B.C. continues a decades-long decline. But Dr. Jeffrey Joy, lead author of the report published on Friday, said he found a “surprising” spike in transmission among some drug users during lockdown.

Joy said transmission rates for such people had previously been fairly stable for about a decade.

“That’s because there’s been really good penetration of treatment and prevention services into those populations,” he said in an interview.

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B.C. was a global leader in epidemic monitoring, which means the results are likely applicable elsewhere, Joy said.

“We are uniquely positioned to find these things,” he said. “The reason that I thought it was important to do this study and get it out there is (because) it’s probably happening everywhere, but other places don’t monitor their HIV epidemic in the same way that we do.”

Rachel Miller, a co-author of the report, said health authorities need to consider innovative solutions so the measures “put in place to address one health crisis don’t inadvertently exacerbate another.”

“These services are the front-line defence in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Many of them faced disruptions, closures, capacity limits and other challenges,” Miller said in a news release.

“Maintaining access and engagement with HIV services is absolutely essential to preventing regression in epidemic control and unnecessary harm.”

The Health Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Long COVID-19 linked with autoimmune diseases, Canadian study shows

Researchers said the spike among “select groups” could be attributed to a combination of factors, including housing instability and diminished trust, increasing barriers for many people who normally receive HIV services.

British Columbia is set to become the first province in Canada to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs in January, after receiving a temporary federal exemption in May.

Joy said this decision, alongside measures like safe supply and safe needle exchanges, will make a difference preventing similar issues in the future.

“The take-home message here is, in times of crisis and public health emergency or other crises, we need to support those really vulnerable populations more, not less,” he said.

“Minimally, we need to give them continuity and the access to their services that they depend on. Otherwise, it just leads to problems that can have long, long-term consequences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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