Summer COVID surge: COVID-19 experts warn of risks of summer surge as N.B. h...

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Published Time: 28.06.2024 - 19:14:40 Modified Time: 28.06.2024 - 19:14:40

That means there are between 10,000 and 21,000 infections in New Brunswick per week, said Moriarty, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. Summer COVID surge

Two infectious disease experts are warning New Brunswickers the risks of COVID-19 heading into the summer, when they say many mistakenly believe infections decrease.

No breakdowns by province are currently available, but Moriarty said an estimated one in 42 New Brunswickers are currently infected "and could be infecting other ."

That means there are between 10,000 and 21,000 infections in New Brunswick per week, said Moriarty, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

"So it's important for [] to keep that in mind when they're planning activities and deciding whether they should mask, for example, or take other precautions," she said, as the effectiveness of their last COVID-19 vaccine wanes and new variants emerge.

Although tend to think of COVID-19 as being seasonal and tapering off in the summer, much like the common cold or flu, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization both recently reminded that COVID-19 isn't seasonal yet, said Moriarty.

The number of infections has actually increased over the past two summers, she said.

Cases will spike when the virus that causes COVID-19 evolves in a way that allows it to do so, regardless of the season, said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information.

"COVID is continuing to mutate and it's continuing to find ways to evade our immune systems, which means it's way more contagious than seasonal viruses like the common cold and influenza," he said.

A surge has already started, according to Moriarty.

It comes as New Brunswick has reduced its COVID-19 updates to monthly, with the next Respiratory Watch report due on July 3. The spring COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign for those considered most at risk for severe illness ended on June 15. And the government has stopped distributing free rapid tests.

Moriarty called the decision to stop providing free rapid tests "problematic." She said it's important for to continue to test so they know if they have COVID-19, particularly those who are at high risk of severe illness and are eligible for Paxlovid treatment.

The tests are expensive and many can't afford them, she said, including seniors on fixed incomes.

Furness agreed, saying "the consequences of not letting monitor their health in an era where we have said, 'It's on you. It's up to the individual,' to not provide those tools, you're asking for more COVID," he said.

"And when you get more COVID, you get more sickness. And when you get more sickness, it costs the health system more. So it's just foolish."

The provincial Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but has previously said not everyone needs to be tested.

"For the general public, anyone feeling unwell should stay at home while sick and until symptoms improve," spokesperson Sean Hatchard has said.

Furness said  are tired of COVID and don't want to isolate. Testing enables them to protect the around them without the burden of isolating, and without the burden of potentially passing the virus on to someone who ends up dying, he said.

The COVID-19 virus hasn't gone away and remains a "serious concern," said Moriarty. It's still killing and hospitalizing 10 times more than influenza each year, according to her data.

"It's very disheartening to see this happen and to see how much preventable illness there is and how we're choosing not to protect with at least information," she said.

Furness called the lack of information available to help parents decide whether to send their children to camp, or to help decide if or where to take a road trip, a travesty.

"I don't want to say to , 'Hide in your basement.' I want to be able to make smart decisions," he said.

Furness encourages to call their MLA.

"The only thing you can do, I think, is express outrage that the you elected to take care of you, to take care of the population, because they're not doing their job," he said. "It's not a question of asking them to spend money. It's a question of asking them to keep healthier, which saves money."

Furness believes summer camp is lower risk than frequently eating at restaurants in a city core because the children are part of an isolated group, rather than interacting with a wide range of different , and most activities are outdoor-oriented. His own kids will be going to camp, he said.

He recommends avoid crowded indoor spaces without a respirator mask. They can also carry a carbon dioxide monitor to test the air quality of a space, he said.

Moriarty said should hold gatherings outdoors, or open windows and use air filters. They should also ask not to come if they, or someone they live with is sick, and make sure feel welcome to mask.

A lot of who should be masking aren't because it's stigmatized, she said.

For who can't afford to buy masks or tests, Donate a Mask, a registered Canadian charity, can help, said Moriarty.

NB Lung still has free rapid tests available. If are buying tests, they should make sure they're Health Canada-approved, she said.

With files from Information Morning

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