Video highlights from the COVID-19 Livestream (December 31, 2021) on the outbreak in Eeyou Istchee. Highlights include messages from CBHSSJB leaders, and answers to frequently asked questions.
CBHSSJB Chair Bertie Wapachee shares a message for community members and health care workers.
CBHSSJB Vice-Chair Christine Petawabano shares a message about the outbreak in Eeyou Istchee.
A message from Janie and Roderick Pachanos, in Chisasibi.
How does the virus that causes Covid-19 spread between people? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
So this is a virus that spreads essentially on little tiny drops of water that we breathe out. So I know that everybody has been outside in the cold one day or another where they breathe and they see their breath in the air because it's so cold. So that little cloud that we've read that that's always there even when we can't see it as well.
And the COVID-19 virus, it gets attached to the little little pieces of water and it spreads through our breath. And so the closer we are to another person, the more our best reaches to them and then they breathe this in as well. When we wear a mask, it traps some of that water and that that respiratory breath and so then it keeps it inside the mask and prevents it from spreading to other people.
What is the Omicron variant, and how is it different from other variants of the COVID-19 virus? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
So this is also still the COVID-19 virus, but it's a new form of it. So I'm a fairly visual person. And so I'm going to give a little analogy to help to understand how that's different.
So I was imagining a Christmas tree and a very traditional Christmas tree that has, you know, red bows and wait lights and handmade ornaments on it. And it's clearly a Christmas tree. And then I was imagining, that could be the normal COVID. And Omicron could be like a bright orange Christmas tree where all of the decorations instead of being red and gold and green, or, or black and blue, and this doesn't look quite as much as as a Christmas tree, but it's still recognizable, it's definitely the same basic thing.
So that's how Omicron is, it's still the virus COVID, but little parts of it have had mutations. And so it looks different. And this is a reason why actually our immune systems, both if we already had COVID, or if we have had the vaccines to recognize and to fight off the COVID virus, why it looks at it and says, Oh, that looks a little bit different than what I'm what I'm trying to see. And so it doesn't react as quickly and why are vaccines are not as effective against the omachron viruses, they had been against the Delta variants, and against the Alpha variants and the original COVID virus, but they still can see it, and so offer some protection.
Now some of those differences with the Omicron. It's not just how it looks that is different, but also how it behaves. So Omicron is able to reproduce itself more strongly when it's inside of someone's nose and in their airways. It can grow faster, and they make more little pieces of virus on their breath when they breathe out. And so that's why it can be more contagious because that that little cloud of what somebody is breathing out it has more virus in it when they're infected.
So then we're seeing that it's people are getting it by spending less time with someone than they otherwise had to and also, it's spreading faster to more people that way.
Is the Omicron variant causing the outbreak of cases in Eeyou Istchee? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
Is omicron causing the cases in Eeyou Istchee? Almost certainly it is.
We don't have the sensitivity of the test down to the tiny mutations now, because there are so many tests in Quebec, and in Eeyou Istchee I that I think as it was mentioned, we're really trying to keep up with a very, very high number of tests. So it's not possible right now to be doing so many of the secondary tests where you're able to distinguish one variant from another variant, but we can see that because of what's happening very broadly in the province and in Canada, and actually even the whole world that most likely the cases are mostly on the common variant.
And also, this is why we're seeing so much of it and it's spreading fast.
Why did case numbers rise so quickly in the December-January outbreak in Eeyou Istchee? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
So there are a few reasons. So one is because this is most likely the undercard variants for almost all of the cases. So as I said, when somebody has that version of the virus, they even make more of it in their body. And so it spreads more quickly to other people around them. So there's a higher chance every time somebody is infected, that they infect another person around them, or many people around them.
Another reason is because with those changes to the variant, and how it looks different than the initial variants, the vaccine protection is not as strong as it was before. It's still a good protection, and especially against severe disease and hospitalization. But it's not as strong as it was before. And so the virus is able to infect people who are even vaccinated. And we are seeing that amongst the cases that we have as well.
And then another reason is because of course, it's the holiday time of year. And we just before December had before Omicron had come into being so important. A lot of places in the province and Eeyou Istchee and everywhere had started to feel more comfortable with where we are at the pandemic and to loosen restrictions.
And of course, during the early December period, it's the holiday season and people very much want to be together and so are and so there's a lot more social connections than there had been other times and the virus takes advantage of those social connections and spreads within them.
Is the Omicron variant now the main variant of COVID-19 in Quebec? Dr. Colleen Fuller answers.
The third question is Is the omicron, the main variance now in Quebec? Yes, it is. It's typically it can be a little bit different from one day to the next but it's around 80 to 90% of all of the cases in Quebec. So almost nine out of 10 people who have COVID now are having the omicron variant of COVID.
Public Health physician Dr. Colleen Fuller answer the question: How long is a person infected with COVID-19 contagious?
So it's typically 10 days that an infected person can be contagious. And that starts from the day that they have their first symptom. So if they start to have a cough or a fever, it's from the day that they started to have a cough or fever for 10 days.
If the person has no symptoms that sometimes happens at somebody because they're vaccinated or, or young, they, they feel very good and they just get a test that's positive, then it's 10 days from when that test is positive.
And most of the infection risk, it happens, it's not equal through the 10 days, you're more likely to be infectious to other people at the start. And it slowly goes down over the 10 days until the chance goes down to zero.
There are a couple of small exceptions to this. So some people who are severely ill and are in ICU, for example, intensive care units in hospitals or have severe immune suppression. They can be infectious to other people for longer for even up to 21 days, but for most people 10 days is how long they can be infectious.
What is contact tracing and how does it work? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
How does contact tracing work? And why do we need to know a positive cases, contacts. So, again, I'll go back to my visual thinking and thinking about now a new analogy. This one I think about as if you imagine a set of dominoes. And you know, when you tip over the first domino, then it reaches the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one. And you can stop that chain, if you were to go like 10 dominoes out and separate them so that one couldn't reach the other. So by the time it gets there, only the first ones fall, and the other ones are too far to be touched.
In a way, this is how contact tracing works. So if somebody has the infection, then they're already sick. And they're already possibly giving this to other people who are around them. Even people that they were around a couple of days before they knew they were positive through getting a test, because maybe they felt a little sick yesterday, and they got their test today. Or even we know that people can infect other people, even before they start to feel sick within two days before they even feel that first symptom. So when somebody is positive, it's possible that already some of their family members might have gotten some of the virus and might just be waiting for it to grow so that they start to feel sick as well, which could happen a couple of days from now. So by finding out about their family members, and the other people they were close to and those people saying, Oh, I was in contact, I'm going to stay home. So that if I start to get sick, I won't give it to anybody else, it breaks that chain because it makes the people separate from the next person in the chain, and they can't pass it forward. So this is the point of contact tracing.
I wanted to add in here that in the past, and up until really early in December, we had been just very, very successful with all of the prevention measures that people had been doing, and had, like, give them individual counseling, and ask them to isolate and arrange tests for them. But I think as Paul had mentioned, we now have well over 1000 people who have had contact with a person who is positive, and we just really do not have enough staff to reach to every single person.
So we're asking people, when they test positive, we're still talking to the people who are infected themselves, but we're asking them to take the responsibility to inform their own contacts. So if they, you know, had yesterday gone and had a visit with their brother, then they need to call to their brother and say, you know, yesterday I was there today I'm positive so your contact now.
So we're asking people who are positive to take on a lot of that responsibility and inform those that they care about and care about in their contacts around them that that they need to self isolate as well and to watch out for symptoms and of course to get tested after the exposure.
Why do people who are contacts have to isolate after a negative test? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
So this 10 days is based on after the last time you're with someone, you could have gotten that virus from them at that moment. But you haven't developed the illness yourself, you don't start to get sick within minutes of being around somebody, you start to get sick days later. And it can be even up to 10 days later, when you just first start to become sick.
I think we've probably all had the experience before COVID of being around somebody who had a cold, and a few days later, now we have that cause and then a few days later, somebody else in their in our family has that cause. So there's always that timing delay, and was COVID that time delay can be up to 10 days. So even if on the third day the test is negative, it might be the fifth or the sixth day that you start to feel sick.
The reason that we try to do that test earlier is because if you are positive by the third to fifth day, then you need to know how all of your contacts around you to again stop it from transmitting on so that they can isolate. It's to prevent that chain from continuing on and on.
Why doesn't Public Health publish a list of people with Covid-19? Dr. Colleen Fuller answers, followed by Cree translation from Christine Petawabano (Vice-Chair, CBHSSJB).
When people are being diagnosed with any medical condition, it's very sacred to like the ethics of the medical profession, to not be giving out people's personal information on their behalf. And that's the same for an infection, as well as like a diagnosis of cancer or other medical problems. Many people in their life might say, you know, I have a particular illness, I want to tell the people in my life so they can support me. And that's perfectly fine.
People can share their own personal health information to their friends and family into their whole community if they want to. And actually, we're encouraging people to do that, with COVID, just to tell people that you've been in contact with if you're positive, so that they know that their rescue and they can get tested, and isolate to keep everybody else safe. But it's not appropriate for nurses or doctors to be then making like a big public list of all of those people. Because it's taking the control of their health out of their own hands. You know, I think nobody wants to get an infection, and including the COVID infection, nobody wants to get it. And it takes a courage to say, Oh, but I am feeling a little unwell or I did travel, I'm gonna go get myself tested anyway. And we wouldn't want people to feel scared to go get that test, because now everybody across all of us, she will know the results of this test either. So that's the first reason.
The second reason is that it's actually very difficult to do and very impractical. So again, I'm looking at the Youth Grand Chief's background of the northern lights moving, and I'm thinking about how COVID is moving as well, right? And, you know, somebody who's not infected today, tomorrow, they could be positive, and then eventually the Recover too. So it's like trying, if we try to have a list of everybody who is positive, you know, it could change from this morning to this afternoon as somebody new comes and gets a test and now they're positive too. And then somebody else was tested 10 days ago, and they've gotten better.
So it would be hard to even practically have an always up to date list. It would be almost impossible, and it would always be lagging in time. So the danger would be that people would go okay, well my auntie she's not on the list. So it's okay to see my auntie. But that's not true because you know, maybe she had gotten COVID two days ago and she's only getting sick today and she's gonna get her test tomorrow as an example, so those are the two reasons why we are not able to do that and why it wouldn't be appropriate to do that.
What is the difference between a PCR (swab test) and a rapid antigen test? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
What is the difference between PCR swab test and our rapid test? So in many ways, they look the same and heal the same when somebody is doing the test to you. The swab has to go up into the nose in order to collect the mucus. And that's where we would get pieces of the virus to test.
But in the rapid test is put into this little kit with a little bit of chemical solution that it just gives like a yes or no if there is any sign of the virus, but it needs to have a pretty good amount of the virus to be able to detect it. Whereas the PCR test, it actually has a magnification capability. So even when there's tiny, tiny pieces of the virus, like almost none, it can magnify it so that it's still detectable. The rapid test can't do that.
So sometimes, you could still have a negative rapid test even though you have the virus because you have smaller amounts of the virus
Does the outbreak in Eeyou Istchee mean vaccination doesn't work? Dr. Colleen Fuller answers this question.
Next question. When we started vaccinating, we understood that vaccination protects against illness and transmission. Does this current outbreak mean vaccination doesn't work.
So actually, when we started vaccinating, we know for sure that vaccination is protected against people being very sick. So becoming hospital is, and there still is some protection against just getting it and having the minor symptoms or what is called asymptomatic, getting the virus and being able to pass it to somebody else, but not ever feeling sick yourself at all. There is still some protection, but it's lesser for that. It's a really strong protection against hospitalization, and against being really sick, like having like difficulty to breathe and low oxygen levels from the illness, but it's not as strong against getting it and getting a milder version or an asymptomatic version and being able to still pass it on to other people. And that's become actually even more true.
Now with Omicron. When we first started vaccinating, we actually still saw a pretty good cut in the amount of transmission, even asymptomatic infections. From the first variants, we are seeing the Alpha variants and then the Delta variants. But with Omnicon, as I said, because it looks different. The immunity we have it doesn't recognize it as clearly. And so if more people who are vaccinated still get some form of illness and can pass it on to other people. Our immunity does catch up to that. But you know, it does. It's not as strong as it always would be. So vaccination does work. But it's not a complete 100% thing, neither for stopping an infection at all, or for hospitalization. That's why we always have kept saying and keep saying that we need to put vaccination as one of our protective layers.
But it works even better if we add on other protective layers. So those include wearing our masks to stop transmission if we have it, and to stop getting it from somebody else. Also, all of these phase one measures that we're talking about so having to say I'm not going to have visits for now, I'm going to keep myself physically separate from other people just have space and that way will stop the chains of transmission as well. Washing your hands of course, and avoiding large gatherings.
Is the Covid-19 vaccine a cure for the disease? Dr. Colleen Fuller explains.
The COVID vaccine like other vaccines, it's not a cure. It's a prevention. It's like a shield that helps our immune system be stronger to try to prevent infections and to prevent them from being severe. So also we could think historically about other vaccines.
I think that Janie had mentioned measles. It's a good example as well, because, you know, we developed the measles vaccine many years ago, many years ago. And it took so many years of giving it to people before measles became so uncommon that we barely ever see it. But even still, today, there is measles in the world. And there was an outbreak of measles in Quebec in 2015. And there was one in 2011 in Quebec to a few 100 people. But because so many people have that vaccine, they all have this shield. A lot people vaccinated can get measles, it's just uncommon.
But right now we have so much COVID And actually quite a few and vaccinated people too, who don't have that protection. That there's, there's just so much I use the example also sometimes of like, if you're wearing a raincoat and it's raining a bit on you, you'll stay dry. But if you jump into a pool, that raincoat is not going to keep you dry. That's how it is right now.
There's so much COVID that even with our vaccine protection, we still have so many chances to be exposed if we're on people, but we can use those other Prevention's, like masking and staying distance and deciding to stay home in order to keep ourselves protected in this higher risk time.