In Ontario, the rate of new COVID-19 infections is at its lowest level in four months. This is the good news.
The less good news is that of new infections – there were 132 in the 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday – those with the highest proportion continue to be people aged 20 to 39, even though the total number of new cases continues to decline. It’s a trend that started 12 weeks ago and shows no signs of slowing down now that all regions of Ontario are in Stage 3 of reopening.
There are two possible reasons for this, says Raywat Deonandan, associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa: first, the elderly are better protected now, so in comparison, young people now represent a higher proportion of cases; and second, young people are more social in unsafe ways.
“Young people are generally thought to appreciate risk less – we see this in other public health behaviors, like speeding and drug use – especially true for younger men. And data from Ontario suggests COVID is now primarily a young man, ”Deonandan said.
“In addition, young people have a much greater need for social contact. We all understand this. The combination of an endemic infectious disease, a low perception of risk and a strong desire to meddle is a recipe for greater transmission in this age group.
Cases in young adults are climbing
Provincial data shows that following the mid-April spike in new coronavirus cases among people aged 80 and older, the 40 to 59 age group accounted for the largest percentage of confirmed cases in the country. over the next few weeks. But when the end of spring passed into summer, the percentage of infections among people between the ages of 20 and 39 began to climb, reaching over 40% in early June, the threshold above which it remained.
Although people between the ages of 20 and 39 represent the largest group affected by COVID-19, it is important to note that the actual number of infections in this category is still declining. It’s just that they are declining at a slower rate than other age groups.
“In general, 20 to 39 year olds tend to be more social, probably the most social group other than children who interact with each other in school, which is not a current factor in transmission in school. Ontario, ”said Todd Coleman, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of health sciences at Wilfrid Laurier University.
But that alone doesn’t explain why this age group sees a higher percentage of cases than others, he said.
“It could be a number of things, more relaxed social distancing compared to other age groups, going out with friends again. This group may be more represented in workplaces where they are more likely to come into contact with others. I really doubt there is a singular explanation, ”Coleman said, warning that it is not clear whether a possible lack of use of personal protective equipment in this age group could play a role. .
Cumulatively, there have been a total of 42,809 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the province, according to the Star’s public health unit tally. Most of these cases have been in people aged 20 to 59, with women accounting for a higher proportion of all cases in the over 40 age groups.
The seven-day moving average of new cases now stands at 84 cases per day over the past week, the lowest seven-day average Ontario has seen since a high of almost 600 cases in mid-April .
Rocky Mountain High
Alberta continues to have the highest number of active COVID-19 cases in the country on a population basis – 234 cases per million population – with Quebec and Manitoba in second and third at 181.8 and 168.2 cases per million respectively.
The upward trend in Alberta is partly due to the fact that the province of 4.4 million people has decided to remain open as long as active cases in areas of the province are below 50 per 100,000 population, a “liberal” cap that has also been adopted by other countries, including Germany, says Jim Kellner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.
Alberta also has universal testing, which means anyone can be tested even without symptoms, which could explain the higher proportion of cases.
Like many parts of the country, Alberta has seen an increase in cases among young adults between the ages of 20 and 39, Kellner says. And many more cases are emerging in Edmonton, which had not spread much at the start of the pandemic compared to Calgary, a travel hub.
But the impact on health care in the province remains low, Kellner says, which is another reason the province remains open.
Currently, 45 people are hospitalized with the virus and only 10 in intensive care.
There are a total of 224 deaths there, a rate of 5 per 100,000 population, which is well below the Canadian average of 24 per 100,000, a number due to the higher number of deaths in Ontario and Quebec, Kellner said.
The United States has had just over 50 deaths per 100,000, he says, and in the United Kingdom, that number is over 70 per 100,000.
Kellner is concerned, however, with contract finding, which has been effective in the province but is becoming increasingly difficult as people are on the move and do not stay close to home as they were at the start of the pandemic. .
Until recently, the province had about 400 medical students helping with contact tracing, but they have since returned to school, Kellner says.
Although Quebec has the second highest proportion of cases based on population, the province reported 55 new cases on Monday, the fourth day in a row that cases were below 100, according to media reports. Patients at hospital number 145 with 25 of those in the ICU.
Ontario is sixth, with 62.4 active cases per million population. Thirty-two people are hospitalized with the virus, including 16 in intensive care.
Coleman, of Wilfrid Laurier University, says the increase in cases in provinces that initially appeared to have the virus under control should serve as a lesson to all of us.
“I think there may be a slight confusion that the reopening means more social distancing and I think the message needs to be a bit more firm and concrete that we still need to be on our toes for this,” a he declared. “We should always use practices that help prevent this from spreading. And don’t be calm and relaxed and think it’s gone completely.
Chatham-Kent has the highest COVID rates in Ontario
COVID-19 outbreaks among farm workers and temporary foreign workers employed in local greenhouses are under control in Chatham-Kent, but the virus is still spreading due to close contact with confirmed cases.
The region has the highest number of weekly cases of the virus in the province on a population basis – 37 per 100,000.
The majority of cases of close contact occurred within families, including 12 cases related to a boat trip involving several families. There have also been a few cases in the Low German speaking communities.
A spokesperson for Chatham-Kent Public Health notes that the outbreak in these communities is a regional trend that is occurring not only in the Chatham-Kent area but also in the Windsor-Essex, Oxford-Elgin, Huron area. -Perth, Haldimand-Norfolk and Niagara.
Travel out of the province also represents a number of cases in the CK public health unit, including one in which a resident returning from Florida was charged under the Quarantine Act with failing to s ‘isolate.
Windsor-Essex has the second highest weekly case rate, 12 per 100,000, with outbreaks persisting in the agribusiness and manufacturing sectors.
And the Southwestern Public Health Unit, which covers Oxford, Elgin and St. Thomas, is third with 11 cases per 100,000 population.
Cases began to increase in mid-July, says Cynthia St. John, CEO of Southwestern Public Health, due to the spread in some workplaces, family groups and large social gatherings.
“We continued to emphasize the need to stay two meters away from others and get tested even if you only have one symptom,” St. John said in an email, “because the lack of Physical distancing and reluctance to test may have contributed to the spike in cases. “
Of the 132 new Ontario cases reported Monday, most were in Toronto (32), Ottawa (19), Peel Region (18) and Hamilton (16).