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'Don’t foresee large mandatory restrictions': MLHU provides fall preview with increasing COVID cases

COVID cases are on the rise across the province, but the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is not expecting any restrictions.

“What we are seeing now and the data that public health Ontario has provided us, we are expecting that this season is still going to be more severe than our typical respiratory season prior to COVID, but not as severe as last year,” said Dr. Joanne Kearon, associate medical officer of health at MLHU. “If the trends keep pace with what is expected, I don't foresee large mandatory measures publicly.”

Wastewater testing in the lab at Western University is showing increased levels of SARS-CoV-2.

“[What] we've been seeing more recently is an increase that started about the end of August and is going up at a pretty steep slope,” said Eric Arts, a Western University professor and Canada research chair in Viral control. “So you're starting to see increases going up and up to the point where we haven't seen an increase like this for probably at least a year now. It's a pretty dramatic wave that we're going to be experiencing.”

Western researchers posted this graph recently showing the Greenway and Vauxhall treatment plants in London, Ont. The levels are showing the drastic increase in viral load.

A graph showing viral loads at London, Ont. wastewater treatment plants. (Source: Western University/Chris DeGroot)“Wastewater surveillance is only one indicator that we look at for monitoring COVID-19 activity,” said Dr. Kearon. “Other indicators of community transmission are also increasing. So we are seeing increased test positivity, increased number of outbreaks in long term care homes, as well as a little bit of increased hospitalizations.”

At the MLHU, doctors believe this respiratory season will be more severe than prior to the pandemic, but not as severe as last year.

This week, London Health Sciences Centre, St. Josephs London, and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital all re-introduced masking requirements.

Dr. Kearon agrees with those decisions, “I think that certain high risk settings such as health care settings, it is very appropriate that they are instituting their own measures.”

While there is no plan to implement any restrictions, that could change.

Eric Arts, a professor at Western University and viral control expert, spoke to CTV News London on Oct. 4, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“If there were a new variant that had increased severity and did not respond to the immune response from vaccines and infection, then that may be a possibility,” said Dr. Kearon. “As of right now, that does not look like that will be the case.”

Public heath experts are encouraging people to get vaccinated when the new booster rolls out.

Back at Western, Arts believes indoor settings will contribute to increased infection, and says he’s “concerned for his own personal health” due to the proven effects of long COVID.

“This is not as simple infection when you get it,” said Arts. “People don't understand that it's accumulative in terms of its impact and the aspects of long COVID are quite significant for cognitive decline and a whole bunch of other secondary effects that could have impact on long term health. So anytime you can avoid being infected, it's a good thing and you really should.” Top Stories

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