Health officials in Grey-Bruce are sounding the alarm Tuesday as an Omicron sub-variant is causing a spike in outbreaks at some long-term care homes throughout the region.
According to a press release issued by the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU), the culprit likely responsible for an uptick in transmission and subsequent outbreaks is Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which is now the dominant COVID-19 strain in Ontario.
Health officials are urging the public to stay up-to-date on their vaccinations as it remains the best defence against severe illness and death, and is the most effective way to mitigate outbreaks in congregate care settings.
“Evidence shows that BA.5 is more infectious and is spreading faster than previous strains of Omicron. Vaccine offers strong personal protection from hospitalization, complications, ICU admission and death,” GBHU Physician Consultant Dr. Rim Zayed said in a statement.
According to the release, there are currently 10 active COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes and in-patient units in Grey-Bruce, and “some of the homes are experiencing high transmission rates.”
The health unit is recommending the following precautions for people visiting loved ones in long-term care or retirement homes:
Stay up-to-date on vaccinations
Wear a well-fitted mask while indoors
Practice proper hand washing hygiene
Utilize outdoor spaces and social distancing when possible
Stay at home if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
Although a new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is expected this fall, health officials urge residents to stay up-to-date on their vaccinations and not wait until the new vaccine is rolled out, adding that this is especially important residents 60 years of age and older and with underlying health conditions.
“The only way to impede this spread is to increase vaccine coverage in the community – it’s the best, safest and most effective way to get a handle on COVID-19,” said Zayed.