July 8 COVID-19 update: OPH reports new Delta variant case, Province to put more doctors on case, youth mental health suffering

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting seven new cases of COVID-19 today (July 8), one of which is a Delta variant.

There have been 22 cases of Delta variant confirmed in Ottawa to date, with seven in the last month. The monthly figure has dropped over the course of this week from 12 to 10, and now seven.

OPH says it is tracking 44 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa. The number of active cases has been fluctuating between the high 30s and mid 40s this week.

Two people remain in local hospitals with novel coronavirus.

There continues to be just one COVID-19 outbreak, according to OPH. The outbreak is within a local shelter and has affected four people.

No new deaths reported Thursday leaves Ottawa’s pandemic death toll at 591 since the beginning of the pandemic 16 months ago.

The weekly COVID-19 incidence rate is up slightly, from 3.8 to 4.1 per 100,000 residents.

The local COVID-19 positivity rate remains at 0.6 per cent.

As of yesterday, (July 7), the City of Ottawa had administered 93 per cent of the 1,038,060 COVID-19 vaccine doses it’s received. OPH updates local vaccination figures every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The health unit says 742,184 residents over the age of 12 have had at least one shot against the virus and 418,067 have had two. That means 80 per cent of those residents have had at least one vaccine dose and 45 per cent have been fully vaccinated. When it comes to residents over 18, the rates go up to 81 per cent with one shot and 48 per cent fully vaccinated.

There have been 27,719 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa (27,084 resolved) since March of 2020.

Ontario is reporting 210 new cases of COVID-19, Thursday.

Province plans to increase doctors in vaccine rollout

ONTARIO – More family doctors will be involved in Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the province works to reach those who haven’t had a shot with the goal of eventually winding down its mass immunization sites. 

To support vaccine outreach, the province will also start providing public health units with sociodemographic data on residents who’ve already had a jab.

The new focus was outlined today (July 8) as officials announced half of adults in the province have been fully vaccinated against the virus and 78 per cent have one dose. 

“We are not stopping there,” Health Minister Christine Elliott released in a statement. “We want to ensure that even more Ontarians can benefit from the protection of a two-dose summer.” 

The province is working with stakeholders to address vaccination barriers, with outreach strategies including town halls in multiple languages and targeted mobile clinics, Elliott said. 

About 700 primary care settings have been involved in the vaccine rollout so far and officials said more are joining the effort, though a target total number and timeline for their involvement hadn’t been set.

Primary care providers are also being given data on patients who have and haven’t been vaccinated to help with outreach. 

Elliott said family doctor involvement will be essential as mass clinics hosted by hospitals and at large venues like stadiums and recreation centres wind down due to dwindling demand and the need to resume their regular uses.

“While physicians have been important throughout in the vaccination program, both in terms of their offices and in the mass vaccination clinics, they will continue to be even more important as we reach a steady state going forward,” Elliott said. 

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the province envisions family doctor, public health unit and pharmacy involvement in COVID-19 vaccinations will eventually resemble their role in other vaccination efforts, like those seen for flu shots. 

“When you think of other vaccines that are annually administered in Ontario, those are the three primary pathways, and we’ll move to that as we find our need for the mass vaccination clinics decreases,” she said. 

Sociodemographic data that’s been voluntarily collected at vaccine clinics will also start being shared with public health units this Friday (July 9), to help target outreach for vaccinations. 

Data covers race, ethnic origin, language, household income and household size and officials say it can’t be used for purposes other than the vaccine rollout. 

Ontario is also working to increase vaccine coverage in designated hot spots for the more transmissible Delta variant, which has caused virus resurgences and re-opening setbacks in some Ontario regions.

Ontario Health said those improvements along with other positive virus trends will allow for a safe move into Step 2 of the province’s reopening plan, which allows hair salons and similar services to reopen along with more outdoor activities. 

Etches says city needs higher rate of vaccination to lift public safety measures

OTTAWA – in order for the city of ottawa to lift all covid-19 public safety measures, chief medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says the rate of fully vaccinated people will have to be much higher.

Etches says about 90 per cent of the population fully vaccinated to reach that goal. But the doctor adds, there are more factors at play than just local vaccination rates.

“We have to monitor step-by-step, more close contact indoors, more people back in the workplaces,” Etches said. “Are we able to keep the serious illness at a low level? We need time to monitor that into the fall.”

Etches says things are heading in the right direction, but it’s important to realize that is due in large part to continued safety measures, including masking, social distancing and handwashing, as well as the continued vaccine rollout.

“Right now, what’s keeping COVID-19 from transmitting at an exponential rate is the masking that we’re using and the distance between people and the vaccination rates,” Etches said.

The medical officer says public health officials will be keeping a close eye virus activity as residents continue through the province’s reopening plan.

COVID-19 having ‘sustained, significant’ impact on youth mental health

ONTARIO – Preliminary research suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is having a sustained and significant impact on youth mental health in Ontario.

Researchers at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children released initial findings today (July 8) indicating the majority of children and teenagers saw their mental health decline during the pandemic’s second wave.

The early data, not yet peer reviewed, shows more than half of 758 kids interviewed, between age eight and 12, reported significant symptoms of depression from February to March.

This psychological toll was even more pronounced among teenagers, with 70 per cent of 520 adolescents aged 13 to 18 reporting significant depressive symptoms.

The findings draw from the responses of roughly 1,500 parents and children in Ontario as part of a series of periodic surveys tracking youth mental health during the pandemic.

Dr. Daphne Korczak, principal investigator of the ongoing SickKids-led study, says the research shows Ontario’s stringent lockdown measures, including extended school closures in some regions, have posed serious harms to young people that could have lasting consequences.

“We didn’t see evidence that kids started to improve, adapt or demonstrate resilience over the course of a year,” Korczak, an associate scientist in SickKids’ neurosciences and mental health program, said. “We have to have meaningful conversations as our society reopens about how we can prioritize children and their mental health.”

According to data collected from 1,494 participants, the more time school-aged children spent online learning, the more likely they were to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Korczak said some respondents felt even when in-person classes were in session, “it didn’t feel like school” because of restrictions on socialization and the cancellation of extracurricular activities.

“Kids value school beyond just the brick-and-mortar buildings,” she said. “We need to try and run school as normally as possible if we want to improve children’s mental health.”

SickKids has consistently advocated for students to be in the classroom throughout the pandemic, with smaller class sizes and localized closures during outbreaks of COVID-19. Widespread vaccination is a key aspect of Ontario’s plan to resume in-class learning in the fall – though full details of the plan haven’t been shared yet.

The province has promised all students and education workers would be offered two shots before September.

But it’s not as simple as getting kids back inside the classroom Korczak said. To ensure children’s welfare, authorities must also provide supports for parents.

The preliminary findings showed families who were dealing with hardship before the pandemic were disproportionately impacted its economic fallout, resulting in higher levels of mental health symptoms for children and caregivers alike.

Lydia Muyingo, a PhD student in clinical psychology at Dalhousie University, said SickKids’ preliminary findings are consistent with the increased demand for services she’s observed in her own clinical work.

Canada’s youth mental health crisis predates the pandemic, said Muyingo, so the solution can’t be as simple as a “return to normal.”

“There’s this narrative that children are resilient and that they can get through anything. And yes, kids are resilient, but they’re also human,” said Muyingo.

“I think these effects of COVID will last longer than when our masks are off … because if you experience mental health challenges as a child, you are at greater risk of experiencing those problems in adulthood.”

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