It remains to be seen why COVID-19 cases are increasing among Ontario youth

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TORONTO –
In parts of Ontario, one of the provinces hardest hit by the pandemic, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in an unexpected group: young people in their twenties. “This is certainly not a good trend,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

“We don’t want anyone to contract this virus, but it’s interesting to see this group infected. ”

Hamilton health officials announced Monday that in the past 10 days, approximately 40% of new COVID-19 cases in the region have been identified in people 20 to 29 years of age.

The Greater Toronto Area also reported a relatively higher number of youth cases. In York Region, almost 20% of new cases were in the 20 to 34 age group, and about 18% of new cases in the Peel region were in the 20 to 29 year age group, according to health units. local.

Officials don’t know where or when specific transmission of the virus occurred to cause this increase in cases, so it’s not as simple as blaming the crowds in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto or the kids flocking in cafes as Ontario slowly reopens.

Bogoch says that until we understand why and where, we have a hard time doing something.

“I think we have unanswered questions, and we really need public health to really deepen a little bit here for us to appreciate, are these people infected because, for example, they don’t adhere not physical measures of social interaction, or are these workers in factories or other places where they pick it up at work? ” he said.

“We really need to know more, because if we know where they get this infection, we can really put in place a public health response and prevent it from happening.”

Young people who do not have preexisting conditions that affect their immune systems are at lower risk of developing a serious disease than older, immunocompromised Canadians. But an increase in cases among the younger population is not without risks.

“It’s a reminder that anyone can get this infection,” said Bogoch.

He acknowledged that there were and would continue to be serious cases in younger patients, but that it was “rare”.

The biggest concern, he said, is “who are they going home to?” Or who are they in contact with? Do they have elderly parents or grandparents with whom they are in contact who may have a more serious illness? Or […] do they commute or interact with others [and] unknowingly transmitting the infection? ”

He said the increase in the number of cases could also be linked to changes in the way tests are done, because earlier in the pandemic, testing was only limited to people with clear symptoms and / or travel history.

However, as the number of young people is higher than expected in these regions, this could prevent these regions from reopening at the same rate as the rest of the province.

“This is a big problem, and we have to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

Hamilton Public Health said it plans to launch a social media campaign to curb the surge in cases, but has yet to release further details.

Amidst this concern over young patients in Ontario, Alberta released an outline of a potential plan for the reopening of schools in September. The Western province, which has a significantly lower number of cases than Ontario, could put students back in the classroom in a few months.

Bogoch said that although Alberta is part of the country that flattened the curve, there will likely be even smaller hatches when schools reopen.

“This is the new standard, unfortunately,” he said. “We know that even if they do everything right, we are going to see sporadic outbreaks of this infection, and the key here is, do we have the ability to quickly identify it and suffocate it before it turns into a much bigger epidemic? ”

As to whether children should wear masks at school, Bogoch said it would likely be difficult to sell, especially for young children.

“In a perfect world, they would wear masks,” he said. “Because there will be a lot of people under one roof, they will be in environments where they may not be able to practice physical distance. It would be an ideal situation if they did, it would certainly help.

“Can you mandate it, and if you mandate it, can you actually enforce it?” This is another question. “

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