Ontario has officially entered its seventh wave of COVID-19, driven this time by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, the province’s top doctor confirms.
“Sadly yes, we’re in another wave,” Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer, told CBC News Wednesday after Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table pointed to exponential growth in most public health units.
Moore says the province is now reviewing further eligibility for booster doses and that a decision on that will be coming soon.
The BA.5 subvariant has been rising slowly since early June but really started to “take off” mid-month, becoming a dominant strain, Moore said. Ontario can likely expect another four to five weeks in this wave, which is now in about its third week, he said, adding infections are expected to increase over the next 10 days before beginning to slow.
The new wave comes amid the summer months when many are spending more time outdoors — something that would have otherwise been expected to help curb the spread of transmission, raising questions about what will happen as more people head indoors later in the year.
“Lots of unknowns for the fall but I can assure all Ontarians we’re preparing for it,” said Moore.
WATCH | Ontario’s top doctor confirms 7th wave of COVID-19 has begun:
“We may ask Ontarians to wear masks as we go indoors into the fall and we may mandate it if our health system has too many people getting admitted, too many people waiting in emergency departments… All of us want to maintain our health system capacity.”
In a series of tweets Wednesday, the science table pointed to several key indicators signalling the beginning of a wave, little more than a month after the end of most public health measures, including mask mandates.
Test positivity above 10% for 1st time since May
For the first time since May, test positivity is above 10 per cent, with wastewater signals rising across the province overall and within most regions, the science table says.
Around 80 per cent of public health units are seeing exponential growth in cases, though the group says the actual reproduction number is hard to nail down since the province moved to limit PCR testing.
On top of that, Ontario is seeing its first increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since May, with the number of people admitted for the virus higher than at any time last summer.
4) ~80% of public health units have exponential growth in cases (Rt>1), indicating this is occurring across the province (Note, Rt is harder to interpret given limited PCR testing).<br>(7/17) <a href=”https://t.co/XXwMWwNCU1″>pic.twitter.com/XXwMWwNCU1</a>
The latest numbers tracked by the science table show that as of June 29, 605 people were hospitalized as a result of the virus. That’s an increase of 89 people from the week before.
An estimated six people per day died from the virus as of July 3, up from three the week before, the group says.
Indications of a new wave in Ontario come as several G10 countries have already seen a jump in cases driven by Omicron subvariants, including France, the U.K., Italy, Belgium and Switzerland, among others.
Get 3rd doses ‘now’ if you haven’t already, group says
The group says current evidence does not suggest BA.5 is more severe than strains that drove previous waves or that it will lead to the level of hospitalizations seen at earlier points in the pandemic.
“However, any surge comes at a time when hospitals are already dealing with staff shortages and record wait times — this impacts all of us,” the advisory table said.
“And if BA.5 spreads widely, we may see a rise in deaths among higher risk groups such as the elderly as was observed during the previous waves.”
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The group advises anyone in a crowded indoor public setting to wear a high-quality mask and to ventilate as much as possible by opening doors and window for air flow.
Anyone over the age of 18 who hasn’t had a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should “get it now,” the group says.
Anyone age 60 or over or immunocompromised should also take their fourth dose now, it says, noting while updated vaccines targeted to newer variants might be available this fall, “it makes sense to get the vaccines you are eligible for now.”
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“You can be re-infected by BA.5 even if you have recently been infected with an earlier strain,” the group says. “Non-severe infections can still be disruptive to your life and increase long COVID risk.”
Providing a clear, full picture about the state of COVID-19 has become increasingly difficult over the last several months, after the provincial government restricted lab testing and stopped publishing school-related data.
On June 11, the province also switched to weekly reporting of COVID-19 data after more than two years of daily updates.
Wolf found dead by roadside, another still missing after ‘suspicious’ B.C. zoo escape
ALDERGROVE — One of the wolves that escaped its enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo this week has been found dead on a roadside, and a second wolf is still missing, the zoo’s deputy general manager said Thursday.
Menita Prasad said both the zoo’s perimeter fence and the grey wolf enclosure were deliberately “compromised” early Tuesday, allowing the zoo’s nine adult wolves to escape while five cubs stayed inside the enclosure.
All but two of the adults were contained within the zoo’s property, she said.
The zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., has been shut for three days as workers and conservation officers searched for the wolves, while Langley RCMP investigate the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.
The fences had been cut, Prasad said. An earlier statement from the zoo said the escape was “suspicious, and believed to be due to malicious intent.”
Searchers were “heartbroken” to find a three-year-old female wolf, Chia, dead by the side of 264 Street in Aldergrove on Thursday morning, Prasad told a press conference through tears.
It’s presumed Chia was hit by a car, she said.
A one-year-old female wolf named Tempest is still missing and believed to be in the vicinity of the zoo, Prasad said, adding that the animal, which was born at the facility, has a slim chance of surviving in the wild.
Prasad described Tempest as a “shy wolf” who poses no threat to public safety, though she said she could not say what the wolf might do if a person approached her. She urged anyone who sees the animal not to approach her and instead call authorities to report the location.
The wolf’s prime motivation would be to get back to her family, she said.
“As a result of this senseless act, our wolf pack has lost two family members,” Prasad said. “We watched these wolves grow up. We consider the animals at the zoo a part of our family.”
She said the “search and rescue operation” would continue and is asking for the public’s help “to reunite Tempest with her family.”
“She is a small wolf with grey brown puppy fur and white markings on her muzzle and her brow,” Prasad said.
Anyone who spots Tempest is asked contact the Greater Vancouver Zoo, Langley RCMP or the BC Conservation Officer Service by calling 1-877-952-7277.
The zoo, which is about 55 kilometres outside Vancouver, is set to reopen on Saturday, Prasad said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.
The Canadian Press
COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Canada stable, but higher than past summers – Global News
COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and confirmed case counts across Canada are relatively stable after an early summer wave, but they remain far higher than past years, data shows.
As of Wednesday, Canada is seeing an average of 3,475 lab-confirmed cases and 44 deaths per day, according to provincial and territorial data compiled by Global News. Currently, 5,158 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 305 patients who are in intensive care.
While those numbers are down slightly from the brief wave of infections in June and July, they remain far higher than the rates seen during the summers of 2020 and 2021.
In past years, there was an average of roughly 350 patients in hospital per day during the summer months. Even as hospitalizations climbed in August 2021 and into September of that year, they peaked at half the current rate.
The current death rate has also vastly eclipsed past summers, when the average number of deaths per day was in the single digits.
Previous evidence pointed to the summer months as predictable lulls in the pandemic, as people spend more time in outdoor spaces where there is less transmission of the virus.
But the more infectious Omicron variant upended that thinking, and further mutations — including the current BA.5 subvariant and its predecessor, BA.2 — have led to more waves of infections this year than in the past.
The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that BA.5’s dominance has led to a 35 per cent increase in reported COVID-10-related deaths globally over the past four weeks.
In the last week alone, 15,000 people died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“There is a lot of talk about learning to live with this virus, but we cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week. We cannot live with mounting hospitalizations and deaths,” he said at a press conference.
“We cannot live with inequitable access to vaccines and other tools. Learning to live with COVID-19 does not mean we pretend it’s not there. It means we use the tools we have to protect ourselves and protect others.”
COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well
Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has said the country is in a period of pandemic transition that will likely lead to further waves this year, warning back in June that COVID-19 “has not left the stage.”
Public health officials have shifted their focus toward a potential serious wave in the fall and winter. Planning is underway to provide vaccine booster doses to all adults that request one, while ensuring vulnerable populations receive an extra dose.
Experts say the boosters are important, as current vaccines do not sufficiently protect against Omicron and its subvariants, allowing for “breakthrough cases” and even reinfections among vaccinated people.
“However, there is evidence that if you have the vaccine, more than likely you don’t end up in the hospital,” said Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease researcher and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
“People (infected with COVID-19) will say, ‘It’s just kind of a flu, that’s okay, I’ll stay home.’ That is the result of the vaccines.”
Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter
The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that between June 6 and July 3 of this year, unvaccinated cases were three times more likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated cases.
Tedros urged everyone who has access to a booster dose to get one, and to continue to wear masks when it is impossible to keep distance from others.
As of Monday, 86.1 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.4 per cent have received at least two doses. Yet just under half — 49.7 per cent — have gotten at least one more booster dose.
Despite hospitalizations nationally remaining relatively stable, signs are emerging that more patients are being admitted with symptoms.
Hospitalizations are on the rise in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, according to the most recent updates. Most provinces besides Quebec have shifted to reporting data weekly, while Saskatchewan is due to release its first monthly report on Thursday.
To date, provinces and territories have confirmed more than 4,125,000 cases of COVID-19 including 43,471 deaths.
— With files from Rachel Gilmore
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Commercial bankruptcies rising in Canada, says business lobby group – CBC News
A small business lobby group says commercial bankruptcies are rising in Canada and even more small businesses are at risk of closure.
Statistics Canada data shows small business insolvencies have been on an upward trend since May 2021.
But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says its own survey data indicates only 10 per cent of Canada’s small business owners would file for bankruptcy if their business was no longer solvent.
It says 46 per cent of business owners say they would simply stop operating rather than go through the bankruptcy process.
The CFIB also says more than one in six Canadian small business owners say they are currently considering going out of business.
The lobby group wants government support to help Canada’s small business sector get through the next few months and deal with challenges like pandemic-related debt and supply chain issues.
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