Ontario families already bracing for fall COVID-19 wave as some rules extended, others loosen

As another wave of COVID-19 is projected to hit Ontario in the fall, families are looking to the months ahead and possible public health restrictions with different mindsets.

“I think we are going to have a huge surge,” said Dr. Waed Mallah, a family doctor in Hamilton and parent of two young children.

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“I’m not so worried about kids getting hospitalized with COVID, but we don’t know what’s happening after kids get COVID, there’s lot of children with long COVID symptoms. There’s lots of adults with long COVID symptoms,” she added.

“I’m quite optimistic in that way,” said Selina Sharma, also a parent. “We’ve had the vaccinations. There is life to live. Don’t put your energy on that too much and focus on that too much because then it will just play with your mind.”

Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Director Dr. Peter Juni believes a fall wave is ‘almost baked in,’ but what type of wave and how the province will respond depends on a variety of factors.

Ideally, he said, there will be no new variant and pointed to Ontario’s high vaccination rate, along with the number of people with previous infections, as added layers of protection.

The type of wave Ontario is projected to see in the fall will also determine the public health response, Juni said.

On the low end, older people will need a booster to prevent hospitalization. On the other end of the spectrum, a stronger wave could lead to more masking and another mass vaccination campaign.

“For all above the age of 17, and in addition to that, we will need to take in to consideration that we might have a few months where masks will be needed indoors again,” he explained.

His comments come after Ontario extended its mask mandate in high-risk settings — like long-term care homes, public transit, shelters, medical clinics, and hospitals — on Friday.

That measure was set to expire on April 27 and will now remain in place until at least June 11.

“For right now, I do think this is a good idea. But I don’t think, in the general community, we need to bring back mask mandates,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist.

Medical experts say high COVID-19 rates in the community and transmission among health-care workers and staffing are a concern.

“We already have a shortage in those areas. We can’t afford to have people off with COVID. We really need to do everything to keep those people healthy,” said Morgan Hoffarth, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario president.

“This means we have a great number of health-care workers knocked out by COVID and this is on top of the other considerable burden that is based on a weak health-care system in the first place before the pandemic,” said Juni.

RULES LOOSEN FOR CHILDREN UNDER 12 ENTERING CANADA

Meanwhile, Canada is easing a rule related to testing children for COVID-19 who are entering the country.

Starting Monday April 25, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children five to 11 travelling with a vaccinated parent will no longer need a negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada.

Families are reacting to the change in different ways.

“It’s one less thing to do because it was always at the back of our mind,” said one parent who recently travelled to Jamaica with his five-year-old daughter.

“I think everyone should be tested really, it’s just peace of mind, and just another comfort for travelling because you really are in close proximity with your neighbour,” said another parent who recently returned on a family trip to the Bahamas with three children.

When it comes to air travel, masks in Canada are still mandatory, despite most airlines in the United States dropping the measure. 

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