Wednesday, January 26, 2022

COVID-19: Omicron wave likely peaked in early January, B.C. health officials say

The highest number of people admitted to hospital and ICU are among those who have not been vaccinated at all ages

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B.C. is close to a future where COVID-19 is an endemic disease, along the lines of a cold or flu, data from the Omicron edition shows the latest wave may have peaked, officials said on Friday.

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Information released at a briefing indicated that new cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant peaked at the end of the first week of January. Hospitalizations are expected over the next week or two, and by mid-February, hospitalizations from this latest wave will drop sharply to a handful a day, modeling the province’s predictions.

This trend will follow a similar pattern in other jurisdictions affected by Omicron, including the United Kingdom and South Africa and cities such as London and Washington, DC.

“I think it is a real transition in getting out of a pandemic, learning to live with this virus. …if we get to Easter, I think we’re really going to be in a different place,” said B.C.’s provincial health official.

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However, the virus continues to mutate, surprising experts in many ways and finding ways to persist, warns Dr. Bonnie Henry.

COVID-19: Omicron wave likely peaked in early January, B.C. health officials say

Source: BC Govt. Unless there is global protection against the virus – many poor countries are far behind in vaccinating their populations – another type is at risk of emerging, she said.

And what is unknown about how the virus will be transmitted is whether it will be like other coronaviruses and eventually become like the common cold for most people, Henry said.

But health officials noted that with many more people being infected with Omicron and steadily rising vaccination rates in BC, the combination of third booster shots is close to providing a high level of protection against serious disease. As of Friday, 90 percent of all eligible adults in BC have had two vaccinations, while 32.6 percent have had a third shot.

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Also on Friday, BC reported 2,275 new cases of COVID-19. Officials have said the number of infections could be four times higher than the official figures as testing capacity has reached their limit.

A total of 646 people were in hospital on Friday, of whom 95 were in intensive care. Officials said 70 percent of people in intensive care had not been vaccinated. There were six more deaths.

Restrictions put in place before Christmas to slow the spread of Omicron will be reviewed on Tuesday, January 18, but Henry would not say whether they would be lifted or eased or what they would have to look out for to do so.

“I’ll have more to say next week,” she said.

The restrictions include allowing only 10 guests in a house, closing gyms and fitness centres, reducing the capacity for venues for music and sports by 50 percent, closing nightclubs and bars and stringent regulations in restaurants.

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The Omicron version has surpassed the previous Delta version. In BC, omicron now occurs in about 90 percent of cases.

That acquisition took just over a month, a much faster takeover than previous variants. By far the spread has been greatest in BC’s most populous areas – Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island – where statistics show Omicron peaked. The Interior and Northern BC are further behind, with Omicron transitions still increasing in the Interior.

On the positive front, preliminary data compiled by the province suggests that Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, which spreads less easily than Omicron. Hospital stays are half as long for people with Omicron and patients are much less likely to end up in critical care or die.

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The finding also matches the experiences of other jurisdictions, including Ontario, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Source: BC Govt.
Source: BC Govt.

However, information compiled by the province suggests that Omicron poses a risk to those 70 and older, even if they have been fully vaccinated. So, health officials said, it’s important for people in that age group to get a third, booster jab. Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are still 50,000 people who have not received a booster in that age group.

There has also been a recent increase in hospitalizations for children – nine children aged four years and younger – although none were in the ICU. Officials said this is why it is important for children and those around them to be vaccinated. Henry said the virus behaves like upper respiratory disease in children and triggers asthma and other airway problems.

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Information released Friday showed that the number of terminally ill health care workers has doubled during this time of year, adding to the challenges of recently growing hospitalizations.

That’s why the province took the difficult step of suspending non-urgent surgery before Christmas, Dix said.

[email protected]

twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra


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