Health officials keeping an eye on new variant of COVID-19

Last updated on Sep 07, 23

Posted on Sep 07, 23

2 min read

Despite a new variant of COVID-19 being found in Canada, Public Health Ontario doesn’t seem concerned about it just yet.

“Based on available evidence, the BA.2.86 variant does not appear to evade our immune systems better or cause more severe disease than other circulating COVID-19 variants. Familiar methods to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 will continue to be effective against this and other currently circulating COVID-19 variants this fall,” the agency said in an emailed statement to The Observer.

While the new variant was detected in British Columbia last week, there has yet to be a known case of it in Ontario. However the statement from Public Health Ontario (PHO) did indicate “increased COVID-19 activity in Ontario in recent weeks.”

On July 29 there were 705 cases per 100,000 Ontarians, and 59 total hospitalizations in the previous week, and on the most recently reported date of August 26 there were 1,568 cases per 100,000 people and 87 total hospitalizations over the previous week.

The most recently reported positive rate was 11.8 per cent, which PHO considers to be “moderate.” The number of Ontarians that have received COVID-19 vaccines has seen no significant change, with each reported stat from having one dose up to having completed their primary series with an additional two doses having increased by less than one per cent since the start of 2023.

In the week ending on August 26 there was a total of 3,949 tests for influenza, with influenza A being 0.7 per cent positive and influenza B being zero per cent positive.

While Health Canada did approve the first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for those 60 and over last month, there has not been a significant increase in cases. As of August 13 there was only a five per cent positivity rate for kids aged 4 and under, while every other age group was zero per cent positive.

Locally, Waterloo Region Public Health has seen a slight increase in COVID-19 cases in the wastewater data, which is similar to what is happening in other parts of Ontario, the agency said, adding that as we head into the fall and spend more time indoors, we can expect that increasing trend to continue, however.

“The wastewater signal continues to be dominated by [the Omicron variant] and its sub-lineages and will be monitored for the emergence of new variants. There are a number of new variants currently circulating globally, none of which have been associated to date with increased severity,” the agency said in an email.

According to the department, the booster shot that will be available this fall will be targeted towards Omicron.

For residents whom it has been at least six month since their last booster or COVID-19 infection, the region is recommending seeking advice from their healthcare provider about whether to get a booster now or wait for fall to do so.

For COVID cases in the region, as of August 31 there were 26 net new cases for a total of 3,014 reported cases in 2023. As of August 27 there were two hospitalizations due to the virus, with one of those being an ICU case.

According to the region’s vaccine distribution summary, only 4.4 per cent of residents are considered up to date. There was total of 1,468 doses administered in July.

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