This is my 23rd weekly COVID-19 update. Subscribe to Dr. Dina
I hope you had a lovely long weekend, Easter and Passover with your loved ones, and that you are healthy and safe!
Welcome to our 23rd weekly COVID update. As we do each week, we will review the bad news, followed by the good news and my most asked question of the week. I like to end on a high note and will share a personal silver lining that I hope inspires you and makes you smile.
What is the bad news?
There have been over 130 MILLION cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with over 2.8 MILLION deaths. There have been almost 1 MILLION cases of COVID-19 reported in Canada, with over 23,000 deaths.
On Friday, Ontario announced a provincewide “shutdown” to combat the rise in COVID-19 and a third wave. We are being asked to limit outings except to get food, medication, and other essential services. Retail stores can stay open but with limited capacity, and restaurants can only serve takeout, delivery, and drive-thru service. It is not a formal stay-at-home order like we had in January.
Alberta is also facing a significant wave of infections, as is Quebec, where Quebec City, Gatineau, and Lévis will meet tighter rules this week.
This week the Science Advisory Table provided some visual updates that I think explain Ontario’s situation very well.
The third COVID-19 wave is undoubtedly here, and it is being driven by the variants of concern (VOC). VOCs are hitting younger people more than the original ‘wild type’ strain, and younger Ontarians are getting sicker and require more hospitalization than previously. The risk of admission to ICU is now 2x higher, and the risk of death from COVID-19 is 1.5x higher with the B.1.17 variant, initially identified in the UK.
Experts say the only chance we have of preventing healthcare system overload and significant severe illness and risk of massive loss of lives is to vaccinate more people AND stay-at-home. Vaccination simply cannot keep up with the spread of VOC. Plus, people do not have immediate immunity after one single vaccine. We need at least 2-4 weeks after a vaccine to notice antibody levels that may protect an individual from getting sick, and we need a second dose to provide full protection (14 days after the second dose). As the current recommendation is to give the second dose only four months after the first, vaccination alone cannot be expected to prevent further COVID-19 spread. We must continue to practice public health measures, such as distancing, masking, and staying home when sick.
There is a very real risk that ICUs will be overloaded in the coming weeks, leaving the healthcare system at risk of not being able to care for all patients.
We also see a growing backlog for non-emergency surgeries and procedures. The more overwhelmed the healthcare system is, the more these surgeries will be pushed back. And with this mounting backlog, it will be a long time before we catch up.
Dr. Dina, what is the good news?
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that 15% of adult Canadians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine.
However, while more people have been vaccinated this week, vaccines are still not reaching the highest risk communities (this is bad news).
Question of the Week
Do the vaccines work in kids?
Pfizer announced last week that their vaccine is safe and protects well against COVID-19.
In their study of 2260 US children age 12-15, they found no cases of COVID-19 in the full vaccinated teens, compared to 18 adolescents who received a placebo.
This is a small study and has not been published yet, so we need more data, but it is positive.
The kids in the study had similar side effects as adults, with pain at the injection site, fever, fatigue, and chills, particularly after the second vaccine dose. The teens will be monitored for two years to see if the vaccine remains safe and effective long term.
I understand Pfizer will be asking regulators in the US and Europe to allow emergency use of the vaccine from age 12 onwards. Pfizer Canada said they intend to file for Health Canada approval as well. I’ll keep you updated.
My silver lining of the week
I share a favorite silver lining each week for your benefit and my own as well. I am a big proponent of focusing as much of our attention on the joys and blessings we have. Not just during the holidays, but always. I have kept a ‘One Line A Day’ Journal for eight years. Each day (or sometimes I write entries in bulk, cause, let’s face it, I am busy like you too!), I write a few lines about what the kids and the family are up to. I try to note amazing things they are doing or learning, how they are growing, developmental leaps, and funny things the kids say. It is an artifact of our family.
The act of knowing I have to write these brief lines every day allows me to be mindful of what is going on. And aware of my incredible luck and fortune.
Writing my weekly silver lining for you all each week is a time for me to reflect. It is more significant than a typical post about my child learning to potty train, losing their first tooth, or sudden interest in the solar system (all actual topics I have written about in my journal 😃 ). It is a way to reflect on my life in general.
Many of you commented that you share the same silver lining, but perhaps you weren’t even aware of it until you read it. Or it gave you the goal to be mindful of your silver lining each week. Some of you have told me you have made it a regular practice to discuss your silver linings with your partner or kids each week, as my family does at dinner each night.
However, it has inspired you, I am grateful.
Because if I know something for sure, we all need some (or a lot!) more positivity and happy thoughts right about now. And we do indeed have some fantastic things to be thankful for.
My silver lining for this week is the incredible bonding I have seen in my kids. I am thankful for my four amazing sons who have connected in a way I cannot imagine being possible without the pandemic. They aren’t seeing their friends in person and have found in each other their best friends. I will forever be grateful for that. (I may or may not be tearing up right now.)
Family time has taken on a whole new meaning this year. Many of us lamented having time to sit down with our kids for family meals, playing board games, or even watching our favorite movies from the past (recent favorites here include Ghostbusters and Star Wars). We now have more time for these pursuits that bring our families closer together.
Our kids are getting more time with us and with each other. That is maybe the most significant silver lining of them all.
Thank you all for joining me again this week.
I wish you health and happiness and safety always,