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Happy March Break!

Dr Dina News

Hello friends!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a great start to the week. Many of your kids are off this week for March break. I hope you are having a wonderful time!

Let’s dive into the bad news and the good news. I will answer your most common questions of the week and end on my silver lining.

 

What is the bad news?

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. There were 118,000 cases across 114 countries and around 4300 deaths. At that time, 90% of cases were in 4 countries.

As we enter the third year into the pandemic (I can’t believe it has been so long!), the world passed a grim milestone. We have now had almost 60 million official cases (and probably many times more undocumented cases) and 6 million official deaths. The estimate is that 10-25 million people have died from COVID globally.

While some areas in the world have seen a steady decrease in COVID cases, death rates remain high in Eastern Europe, particularly in Hungary, Poland and Romania. There is low vaccine coverage in these areas.

Cases continue to rise in Hong Kong, despite a ‘zero-tolerance approach to COVID.

The United States has the highest death toll, at close to 1 million COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began. Deaths have been decreasing since February.

Health Newsletter

Resource – Ny Times

Health Newsletter

Resource – canada.ca

What is the good news?

As COVID restrictions ease across much of Canada, mask-wearing, according to Federal Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo is a ‘personal choice’. While wearing a mask is a “tried and true personal protective practice”, the decision to wear one is now considered a personal choice and should be based on an individual’s risk assessment. This is a massive shift in the approach to masking.

Dr. Teresa Tam says the risk of another significant Omicron wave is low, though masks remain a strong defence against infection.

Health Newsletter

Resource: JHU.EDU

Starting March 21, 2022, masking mandates will be removed in most public settings in Ontario. Directives requiring masking in healthcare settings will remain in place until April 27, 2022. The chief medical officer of health will release guidance at this time on the ongoing use of personal protective equipment in healthcare settings. Individual health-care settings can implement their own policies.

Isolation guidelines have changed as well. Individuals who are boosted or under 18 years of age and fully vaccinated are no longer required to self-isolate if they have household contact with COVID-19.

Individuals exposed to someone with COVID that they do not live with are no longer required to self-isolate. These individuals should self-monitor for symptoms for ten days from their last exposure and isolate if any symptoms develop. They must wear a mask in public settings for ten days after their last exposure.

Individuals who have confirmed or presumed COVID must wear a mask in all public settings for a total of 10 days. Immunocompromised individuals should wear a mask in public for 20 days. The days should be counted from symptom onset or specimen collection date (whichever is earlier).

 

Most common questions of the week

 

Do masks in school prevent the spread of COVID?

A large study by the CDC of 233 Arkansas schools found that school districts that required masks this fall saw significantly fewer COVID cases than those where masks were optional. School districts with mask requirements saw a 23% lower incidence of COVID cases. Rates in districts with partial requirements (when masks were required in the hall but not in the class) were in between.

When they evaluated 26 school districts where a mask requirement was instituted in the middle of the study, they found a significant decrease in new COVID infections a week after the policy was instituted.

The researchers concluded, “Masks remain an important part of a multi-component approach to preventing COVID-19 in K-12 settings, especially in communities with high COVID-19 community levels”.

 

Do we know more about long COVID?

A study of more than 150,000 people in Denmark shows that almost 1/3 of people have at least one ongoing symptom of COVID-19, six to twelve months after becoming infected. The questionnaire-based study identified fatigue and changes in taste and smell were the most common long-term symptoms. This study was done before Omicron was the dominant variant.

 

Should kids stop receiving the COVID vaccine?

You may have heard that the Florida surgeon general recommended that healthy kids NOT get vaccinated against COVID. I received tons of questions about this last week. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasized that kids should CONTINUE to receive the vaccine. The president of the Florida chapter of the AAP, Lisa Gwynn, said, “The evidence is clear that when people are vaccinated, they are significantly less likely to get very sick and need hospital care.”

 

On a non-COVID note –

Where can children in grades 7 and 8 receive the school-age vaccination?

Before the pandemic, children in grades 7 and 8 received Hepatitis B, meningitis and HPV vaccines in school-based clinics.

When the pandemic started, some city-run clinics took over, and physicians began to give these in offices. Then, city-run clinics closed.

Toronto Public Health is once again offering these vaccines in city-run clinics. Appointments are required and can be booked online. A health card is not required.

If you’d like your physician to give the vaccine in the office, please schedule a call with your doctor to review. The vaccines can be ordered for your child.

Other vaccines (such as MMR and chickenpox) cannot be given in Toronto city-run clinics. These are only offered in the office.

Under Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupil Act (ISPA), all students are required to be up-to-date with Meningococcal vaccines or have a valid exemption. Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines prevent cancers and are voluntary for school attendance.

 

My silver lining of the week

Many kids are off this week on March break. Some of you are travelling. Your children may be in day camps. They may be having playdates. Most of us are feeling a lot more ‘normal’ lately. Restaurants, cinemas, arenas and other venues have opened up. We are seeing one another again. Kids have stayed in school for a few months. It’s taken two years, but certainly, things are looking up.

Have a great week, friends,

Dr Dina Kulik - Kids Health

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM
Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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