The Oakville Resiliency Report is timestamped in September 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Welcome to the fourth installment of our #WeekendReads series! Join us every Friday as we build on information shared in the report and share new information that is now available. Click here for previous installments.
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The focus on physical health has changed as the pandemic has progressed. Now nearly one year later, we know that some who test positive for COVID-19 remain asymptomatic and some continue to experience symptoms long after the virus has left their system. We also know that some other physical health conditions have not had the care and attention they need.
The end could be in sight, however. Nearly 3 out of 4 Canadians have indicated they intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine¹ and earlier this month, Canadian officials said they expect 14.5 million Canadians to be immunized by June.²
Just this week, the Ontario vaccine task force announced the vaccination booking system is expected to open on March 15, and that the regional public health units would start vaccinating those aged 80+ the following week.³ A member of the task force has said the announced timeline is conservative and based on a worst-case-scenario.⁴ The introduction of new approved vaccines could accelerate the schedule.
Halton Region also announced that in addition to mobile clinics and the Halton Healthcare clinic, four locations are to become community immunization clinics. In Oakville, this will be St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre.⁵ As of February 19, Halton Region had administered 23,934 doses of the vaccine, although they did not specify how many people had received both doses.⁵
Experts say even if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, you should still get the vaccine.⁶ The level of immunity from a previous infection isn’t fully determined and everyone, regardless of past infection, will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
Post COVID-19 condition or “long COVID” is being warned as a potential health crisis for public health systems. Research suggests that between 10% and 20% of people who test positive for COVID-19 continue to experience lingering long-term symptoms.⁷ There are currently more than 200 possible symptoms that can affect 10 different organ systems, however after six months, symptoms generally include fatigue and cognitive dysfunction.⁷
It’s unknown whether symptoms will continue for months, years or be lifelong. Some specialized clinics have begun popping up around Canada and people suffering with post COVID conditions are encouraged to find a regular primary care physician who can manage their symptoms on a regular basis. Approximately 9.4% of Ontarians do not have a primary care physician.⁸
OTHER HEALTH IMPLICATIONS
A survey conducted in late 2020 indicated that only 9.6% of post-secondary students are meeting the Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.⁹ In fact, the number of hours spent in sedentary behaviour – like sitting or lying down – rose by three hours to 11 hours a day.⁹
An unfortunate reality of the pandemic is the significant drop in cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies. Doctors are saying that while it looks like less people are being diagnosed, more people are just going undiagnosed. Some regional health departments have had to triage cancer patients while people with a cancer diagnosis are delaying emergency room needs for fear of the virus.¹⁰
Suspected drug overdoses have also increased during the pandemic. In June of 2020, Ontario’s chief coroner announced a 25% increase in suspected drug-related deaths in the first three months of the State of Emergency, compared to 2019.¹¹ In the first 15 weeks of the pandemic, opioid-related deaths increased by 38% compared to the 15 weeks prior.¹¹ In 2020, Halton Regional Police indicated they responded to 240 suspected drug overdoses.¹²
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Charitable organizations helping members of the community with physical health issues have received funds from the Oakville Resiliency Fund, GIVEOakville and the Emergency Community Fund*.This funding has helped, but it has not satisfied all of the needs.
Organizations like Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation indicated while their centres remain closed, the participation rate in their new virtual programs is as high as pre-pandemic levels. Nearly half of respondents to an Acclaim Health survey indicated their well-being has gotten worse since the pandemic started and nearly 3 out of 4 indicated that COVID-19 is a risk to their health, safety and wellbeing.