Yes Virginia, there’s still a COVID-19 pandemic out there. Even before the Guelph General Hospital announced another COVID outbreak in the building, healthcare advocates spent their Tuesday reminding the public that the pandemic is still happening, and COVID-19 is still a threat even if you have all your COVID shots.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Guelph General Hospital announced that an outbreak’s been declared in the 4 West wing of the building; so far three patients have been confirmed to have the virus. This is the sixth outbreak at Guelph General since the start of the holiday season at the end of 2021, the last one was declared mid-March with eight patients and three staff members in total testing positive for COVID. That outbreak was declared over March 25.
“The unit is closed to admissions except for COVID-positive patients and several steps have been taken to keep the virus from spreading. These steps include; putting all patients in the unit in appropriate additional precautions, COVID testing of all patients in the unit, closing the unit to visitors except for compassionate grounds and increasing the cleaning being done including frequent cleaning of high touch and high traffic areas,” said the hospital media release.
The three COVID patients in Guelph General joined nearly 1,100 other COVID patients now in hospitals across Ontario on Tuesday. Public Health Ontario reported that 1,091 people with COVID-19 are now admitted in provincial hospitals, the first time that there have been over 1,000 COVID patients in total in Ontario hospitals since February 26.
In Guelph, the COVID outbreak at the hospital was joined by a new outbreak at Homewood Health Centre where there are two patients with COVID-19. There are outbreaks in five long-term care and retirements homes the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health coverage area.
The announcement about the new outbreak in Guelph General Hospital comes on the same day that many health groups and public health advocates are raising the alarm about the surge in COVID cases at a time when there are hardly any mandates left in effect. One of those is the Canadian Medical Association, who said that we have the tools available to curb the latest waves.
“The COVID–19 virus has not gone away. We see that Ontario and Quebec have entered a sixth wave of the pandemic. While we shouldn’t be gripped by fear, we must use the tools and knowledge we’ve gained from the past two years to guide us forward as we seek to protect vulnerable citizens and keep the already overburdened health system afloat,” said Dr. Katherine Smart, the president of the CMA.
“Everyone eligible should get vaccinated, including completing their vaccine series with a third dose for citizens aged 12 years and older,” Smart added. “We also strongly encourage all Canadians to wear masks in indoor public settings, including schools. In addition, governments must bolster COVID–19 monitoring efforts and share information broadly so citizens can stay informed.”
The Council of the Chief Medical Officers of Health released a statement Tuesday saying that everyone has to make sure that they’re caught up on all doses of vaccine shots.
“As jurisdictions lift public health restrictions and shift from mandates to recommendations, our individual actions will continue to have a critical impact on the health of all those living in Canada,” read the statement. “Staying up-to-date with COVID–19 vaccines provides you with strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization and helps to reduce the overall impact and severity at the population level.”
On Thursday, it was quietly announced that the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table was moving from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health to Public Health Ontario, which prompted some people to argue that the government was compromising the table’s independence.
“We can’t have science being muddled by politics, there’s too much on the line,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement last Thursday. “I ask the Premier to explain his reasons for taking this step. Ontarians deserve transparency. And they deserve independent science based recommendations they can trust.”
It’s one of the reasons Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca spent his Tuesday touting the list of medical professionals running for his party in the coming election. One of the newest members of that slate was Lee Fairclough,the president of St. Mary’s General Hospital and Waterloo Wellington hospital regional lead for the COVID-19 response. She will be running for the Liberals in Etobicoke Lakeshore.
“Doug Ford’s Conservatives’ approach to this pandemic has left many of us very concerned, including about the erosion of the public health system in favour of privatization,” Fairclough said. “It isn’t right after seeing the extraordinary efforts on the frontline to support care through this pandemic. After these two years leading a hospital, I decided it’s time to put my name forward to run with a party that believes in building more resilient publicly funded health care.”