First the good news. As the data are indicating, it appears that flu infections have now spiked in Ontario, and that the worst of the influenza season seems to be over.
Then there is the not-so-good news. As our national media are reporting, the emergent data are pointing to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Ontario. It should also be noted that the data are grounded in statistics from Toronto Public Health, and other authentic government sources.
As we highlight in this edition, earlier this week Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr Eileen de Villa indicated the latest data as of January 10 are indicating that the flu season may have peaked; however, at the same time, the Covid-19 indicators are showing a spike in infections.
Also, in another national media report, it seems that the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant is surpassing its other variant “cousins” for infectivity, and will this week become a notable strain in about one in five Covid-19 cases.
The statistics driving the latest forecasting for another landfall of Covid-19 infections are even more revealing – as has been reported, a genomic surveillance report from Public Health Ontario released earlier this week has indicated that the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant will be responsible for 22.2 percent of all new Covid-19 cases in Ontario before the end of this week.
It is worthwhile, and disconcerting to note, that comparatively, three weeks ago XBB.1.5 was responsible for two percent of Ontario’s cases.
It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over, in the words of cardiologist, and a pioneer in researching diversity and community health, Dr Vivian Rambihar.
As he notes in this edition, “…Three years after Covid-19 started, it remains active, and we still have to be careful”; additionally, that XBB.1.5, also known as Kraken, is spreading across the world, and which could become “the dominant strain of Covid-19, and will likely affect us the same as other variants”.
It is worthwhile to also be attentive to Rambihar’s reminder that subgroups in the community are at higher risk of serious illness if infected with Covid-19. As he notes, these subgroups are older individuals, those with other illnesses, and those with impaired immunity.
“Some vulnerable communities also remain at increased risk, such as those living in crowded households, [are socio-economically] disadvantaged, nursing home inhabitants, and some ethnic groups, due to a combination of factors, and with exceptions,” he adds.
Rightly and wisely so, Rambihar has called on our community to display caution, vigilance, and prevention.
His call is also in keeping with the messaging from Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore.
Back in December, Moore said the projection was forecasting a rise in Covid-19 cases in early to mid-January, which is now appearing to be evident. At the same time, he recommended the deployment of “layers of protection” to help prevent infection.
Rambihar also similarly advises that we continue to follow Public Health Guidelines where we live, “since Covid-19 is different in different locations”.
As the health guidelines on Covid-19 prevention tell us, personal intervention, diligence, and vigilance are required. That it is in our best interest to keep up-to-date on, and to acquire vaccinations and its boosters; we are to also avoid high risk situations, and if required, make a judgement call on wearing a mask; also, that if we are ill, or are displaying Covid-19 symptoms, then we are to not have contact with others.
It is noteworthy that we are not alone in Ontario, and in Canada, as we prepare for what is appearing to be an oncoming infection spike. A similar trajectory of growing infections has already been noted in nations as the US, the UK, and in our Caribbean homelands.
Last week the government of Trinidad and Tobago said it would not intervene with restrictions. Instead, it emphasised personal vigilance and individual protective measures, which should be noted by the many of us here in the GTHA who are planning to visit for Carnival celebrations.