COVID-19 surge, flu season, other viruses could spell ‘difficult year’: Moore

COVID-19 surge, flu season, other viruses could spell ‘difficult year’: Moore

TORONTO – COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, flu season is on the horizon and many other respiratory viruses are circulating again, Ontario’s top physician said Thursday, warning that the coming months could be difficult.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu when eligible (the latter will be available to the general public on November 1) and said he hopes the greatest possible level of acceptance because the flu vaccine is usually quite effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization.

“We really need it this year of all years because it’s going to be a tough year as we try to get back to normal life with all the respiratory viruses this fall and winter,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Earlier this year, the Ontario government, in consultation with Moore, eased and then removed restrictions such as gathering and capacity limits, proof of vaccination requirements, and mask mandates, except in nursing homes. long term. This fall and winter will be the first since the start of the pandemic without those public health measures.

The province is seeing a “slow, creeping increase” this week in the number of COVID-19 cases, test positivity and the number of people in hospitals and intensive care units with COVID-19, Moore said.

Moore is not yet ready to declare an eighth wave, but said the increase in COVID-19 activity in Ontario is being driven in part by Omicron’s BA.2.75 and BQ.1.1 subvariants. They each account for about five percent of cases in Ontario, but they appear to be more transmissible and infectious.

If the hospital system is overloaded to the point where the ability to reduce the backlog of surgeries is affected, Moore said he would first suggest that the government make a “recommendation” on the use of masks in settings such as post-secondary institutions, shopping malls and public transport.

If there are more fallout from the virus, Moore says at that point he would recommend reinstating some mask mandates.

There is currently enough capacity in the ICU, Moore said. However, emergency departments have reported strain and long wait times in recent weeks.

In August, the most recent month for which data is available, ER patients waited an average of 1.9 hours until they were first evaluated by a physician and the average time ER patients spent in hospital if admitted it was 20.7 hours.

But an Ontario Health report leaked this week by the Liberals said that in August, 90 percent of ER patients waited up to 4.2 hours to first see a doctor and, if admitted, stayed in hospital. up to 44.1 hours. That despite patient volumes being lower than in August 2021.

Ontario Health said the average times are more meaningful, but liberal health critic Adil Shamji said the 90th percentile figures are useful because they reveal the longest waits and most dangerous scenarios.

To prepare for the upcoming flu season, Ontario has ordered more than six million flu shots, Moore said, which is considerably fewer than last year.

In 2021, Ontario ordered 7.6 million flu shots, 1.4 million doses more than the previous year, after a huge uptake in 2020. But there was less interest last year due to a decline in activity. of the flu in the past two years, Moore said. This year’s order size is more “realistic,” she said.

The Health Ministry said the consumption of flu vaccines for various seasons before the pandemic was around 30 percent. It rose to nearly 39 percent when COVID-19 hit in 2020, but fell to 29 percent last season.

Moore said he particularly hopes that at least 80 percent of older Ontarians will get a flu shot this year.

Ontario also announced Thursday that Pfizer’s bivalent vaccine, which targets the Omicron variant, will be available starting next week for people 12 and older.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 13, 2022.

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