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Kawartha Lakes health unit cautions public about new COVID-19 subvariant spread

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: Local health officials are starting to see signs of a resurgence of COVID-19 spread in the Kawartha Lakes area.

During a virtual information session, on Wednesday, July 13th, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR) medical officer of health, Dr. Natalie Bocking, discussed the “seventh wave” of COVID-19 spread, also “referred to as the third Omicron wave.”

“This wave is being driven by the Omicron subvariant BA.5. BA.4 and BA.5 first emerged out of South Africa and then started to be seen in other countries,” Dr. Bocking said.

Dr. Bocking stated, BA.5 is currently the dominant COVID-19 variant in Ontario.

“We know BA.5 is more transmissible and more infectious than the previous Omicron variants, as well as the previous variants prior to Omicron. We also know the risk of reinfection is higher. So, if you had COVID-19 from Omicron, either BA.1 or BA.2, or you had COVID-19 from another variant, you can still get BA.5.”

While she stated, the new subvariant “does not cause more severe disease,” Dr. Bocking cautioned that “because it is so much more infectious, the absolute number of people who might become seriously ill, requiring hospital admission, may be larger than what we’ve seen.”

She also wants people to remember the local hospital system “is already under tremendous strain” because of nursing shortages.

Due to the current wave of infections, the health unit is “strongly recommending” people wear tight-fitting masks when in indoor spaces.

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