Going to Bluesfest? Pack a mask, says Ottawa Public Health

Experts say a good, well-fitting mask is key to protecting people from the latest surge caused by the Omicron B.5 subvariant

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People going to Bluesfest and other large, crowded outdoor festivals should bring a mask, says Ottawa Public Health.

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The latest advice on protecting against COVID-19 has been released by OPH along with an overview of statistics confirming that the city is experiencing another wave of infections.

OPH now « strongly » recommends wearing a mask both in indoor public places and in crowds outdoors.

« If you are attending summer events or festivals this weekend, please wear a mask if you cannot maintain physical distancing and use your protective layers, » OPH said in the snapshot posted to Twitter. .

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« Remember, what we do now will make a difference in the weeks to come. »

At crowded outdoor festivals, staying two meters away from others is not easy.

Bluesfest, the city’s largest music festival, opened Thursday night at LeBreton Flats. A scattering of people in the crowd wore masks.

OPH offers advice, but it is not the law. The province dropped most mask mandates last spring on the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore. He said Ontarians need to learn to live with and manage the virus and make individual choices.

This wave of COVID-19 surprised some experts because they did not expect a surge until the fall.

It’s powered by a variant of Omicron called BA.5, which « could be the most contagious respiratory virus known to mankind, » says Raywat Deonandan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Ottawa.

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« It’s on par with measles, maybe, » he said. « No one is certain. »

The basic reproduction number of the original COVID-19 virus – the average number of infections that can be caused by one case – was around 3.3, he said. For the Delta variant, it was five. For the original Omicron variant that hit Ontario last winter, it was 9.5. For Omicron BA.5, modeling suggests the reproduction number is 15 to 18, Deonandan said.

Transmission of the virus is more common indoors. However, it can also be transmitted outside, and given the current scenario, it makes sense to be cautious, he said.

« It makes sense to create a bit more worry and vigilance in outdoor scenarios than we had last summer. »

That doesn’t mean not congregating outside – Deonandan said he meets people on patios himself.

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« But if you’re going to be spending a lot of time around a lot of people whose infection status is unknown, it’s worth » wearing a mask outside, he said.

“An N-95 mask works wonders. It’s not perfect protection. Personally, I think if you want to go to Bluesfest, go to Bluesfest. Just wear your mask. And wear a good mask, not a crappy homemade mask or a surgical mask. Wear an N95 or a KN95, and wear it diligently, and go treat yourself.

The BA.5 variant also differs enough from other Omicron variants that even people who already had COVID-19 earlier this year may be susceptible to reinfection, said Dr. Brent Moloughney, Deputy Medical Officer of Health. the OPH, in a press release sent by e-mail.

He said he was particularly concerned about people who did not receive a reminder.

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In Ottawa, more than a third of residents age 12 and older who are eligible for a third dose have not received one. And half of people aged 60 and over, who are eligible for a fourth dose, have not received it, he said. This group is most at risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19.

Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Table said earlier this week that the province has likely entered a new pandemic wave fueled by BA.5.

The number of people hospitalized may be lower than in previous waves, but hospitals are already under pressure, he said.

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In Ottawa, the virus level in sewage is “high and increasing,” says OPH. The number of people who test positive among those eligible for testing is also “high and increasing”.

Hospital admissions, which lag behind a growing wave of infections, are « moderate and increasing ».

Outbreaks in health care facilities and other congregational places, such as long-term care homes, are « low and stable. »

Moloughney also said there seems to be a misconception that Omicron is softer and not a real concern.

« While milder on average, it is not for everyone, especially in the elderly, with multiple chronic conditions, or who are unvaccinated, » its statement said.

The pandemic is not over, he said.

In the first half of 2022, the number of people who died from COVID-19 has already reached the total number of deaths in 2021, he said.


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