COVID-19’s Third Wave is Coming At Young People

Earlier this week Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer David Williams announced the province has entered a third wave. Similar warnings have been echoed the chief medical officers in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. Many parts of Europe are already deep into a third wave with new rounds of lockdowns and restrictions being enacted in many countries.

In a recent CBC News article, a Toronto area emergency room doctor describes a growing trend among the patients being admitted to hospital for COVID-19 related reasons. “They’re younger and they’re sicker,” Dr. Lisa Salamon says in the article. In fact, multiple Ontario physicians have noticed both an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients requiring emergency care but a shift to younger patients arriving in hospital.

In the article, clinicians and epidemiologists suspect multiple factors for the shift in the trajectory of the pandemic. To date, vaccinations efforts have been largely focused on front line health care workers and the elderly, leaving younger people vulnerable to the virus.  As stated by one doctor, “our vaccination efforts to have have done nothing to protect the at-risk, community-dwelling adults.” Adding to the issue is the patchwork of restrictions and reopening across the province. This has given people more opportunity to mingle and spread the virus. All the while, more contagious and more deadly variants of concern continue to make up a higher percent of the new cases recorded each day (54 percent of COVID-19 cases according to the latest provincial data).

Finally, as outline in the article, the general outlook on COVID-19 amongst younger people has largely been one of indifference. "For younger people, the messaging has been, “You don't want to get COVID, but it's not as big a deal if you do,” said Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "That messaging, first of all, has been dangerous and incorrect in general, but with these new variants circulating, it's now important to understand that things look different." 

It cannot be overstated that we have made great progress in our collective fight against COVID-19, but we must not mistake progress for completion. The next few months will be very challenging and there are many obstacles to overcome. We must remain vigilant. we need to prioritize short-term satisfaction for long-term gains. This means holding off on inviting your friends over for a dinner party and limiting your trips to the store to essentials visits only. Secondly, we need to double-down on our protection measures given the high viral load found in the variants of concern. Ditch your cloth or paper mask in favour of a medical-grade mask such as a KF94, especially in indoor public settings.