Canada Federal modelling suggests 'very intense' Omicron surge within weeks
Canada in for ‘intense’ weeks of Omicron infections, hospitalization surges: data
The projections, made by Canadian health officials on Friday, indicate the Omicron wave could peak at 170,000 cases a day this month. Canada is set for several “intense” weeks of COVID-19 activity as Omicron will continue to drive record infections and hospitalizations, new federal data suggests.
New modelling released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests the highly transmissible Omicron variant will push hospital admissions to "extremely high levels" in the coming weeks as case counts reach levels never before seen in this country.
While there is a lot of uncertainty about how many new infections are being reported each day due to, PHAC said the current test positivity rate suggests the variant is running rampant and there will be "several weeks of very intense activity expected to come."
Nationally, the positivity rate is a stunning 28 per cent. That means more than one in four tests for the virus are coming back positive — nearly five times higher than the rate at any other point in the pandemic.
Omicron making life difficult for mathematicians trying to track COVID-19
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The highly transmissible Omicron variant is forcing mathematicians to rework the models that have helped shaped Canada's understanding of COVID-19, as well as the country's response to the pandemic. Everything from who gets tested to who's most likely to contract the virus has changed with the latest wave of the pandemic, and that's posing distinct challenges for those who model its impact, says Caroline Colijn, an associate professor of mathematics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. In particular, Colijn said it will be difficult to understand the severity of the disease as it spreads through a mostly vaccinated public.
That sky-high number may be skewed by testing limitations, now that some provinces and territories areto groups most vulnerable to COVID-19.
To maintain the health care system and the "critical functions of society," PHAC is urging Canadians to limit in-person contacts, get their booster shots and wear good quality, snug-fitting face masks to help stop transmission of a variant that is ripping through communities nationwide.
While PHAC said Omicron is likely less severe than past variants — the risk of hospitalization is lower than with the Delta variant, for example — the sheer number of new infections means more people will be susceptible to severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
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The "enormous volume of cases" — the modelling suggests there could be as many as 150,000 new infections a day sometime this month — is driving an increase in severe illness trends nationally, PHAC said. New hospital admissions could surge to somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 each day, well above historic highs.
Since December, the number of people with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals has more than quadrupled to an average of over 6,779 daily, while the number in critical care has doubled to an average of over 884 daily. Meanwhile, 82 deaths are being reported each day.
While the high volume of cases is driving an increase in hospitalization rates across all age groups, the number of hospital and ICU admissions is still highest among adults 80 years of age or older.
Infection rates could be stabilizing in Quebec, Ontario
Video: On This Day: 5 January 1968 (The Canadian Press)
Mandryk: Premier's COVID-19 reality reveals need for a better approach
Saskatchewan people need clarity on how we can avoid the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The unfortunate news Thursday morning that Premier Scott Moe has contracted COVID-19, according to a rapid test, underscores how even those who are desperately trying to avoid this highly contagious variant might not. We all need to park our politics right now. We should instead be wishing a speedy recovery to not only the Saskatchewan premier but also the thousands of Saskatchewan people contracting Omicron every week. But maybe we all can learn a little from his experience. Maybe the lesson here is that we aren’t going to mitigate the spread individually.
People over 80 report hospitalization rates eight to 10 times higher than younger cohorts. But unlike previous pandemic waves, the Omicron wave also has seen a small but notable uptick in hospitalizations among young children.
There are early indications that the rate of new infections may be stabilizing in Ontario and Quebec. "It is quite possible that in the next few days we'll see a peak in the cases," said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer.
But the number of new hospital admissions will remain high for the foreseeable future because there's a lag time between infection and severe outcomes.
"We could be like other countries — seeing a sharp, sharp increase and then it coming down fairly fast. But we all just want to be cautious about pronouncing on that before we see more information," Tam said.
Omicron has wreaked havoc because it is able to evade prior immunity from past infections and vaccination. PHAC said two doses of an mRNA vaccine are not very effective against infection and symptomatic disease; it described vaccine efficacy against an Omicron infection as "low to very low."
A look at the latest COVID-19 developments in Canada
A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada: — A Canadian study suggests the antiviral medication remdesivir could have a "modest but significant effect" on COVID-19 patient outcomes, including decreasing the need for mechanical ventilation by approximately 50 per cent. The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is billed as the largest single-country trial of remdesivir reported to date. Results are part of a larger study called the World Health Organization Solidarity, a randomized, controlled trial evaluating remdesivir's impact on COVID-19 patients in several countries.
However, people with two doses of a vaccine are less likely to be admitted to hospital. PHAC data suggest unvaccinated people are 19 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.
"These trends clearly show that being vaccinated with two or more doses is highly protective. As booster doses continue to expand, being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines is expected to preserve this protection advantage," Tam said.
To prevent further strain on hospitals, PHAC is urging vaccine holdouts to finally get a dose. More than 6.5 million eligible Canadians are not yet fully vaccinated. Vaccine coverage among people aged 5 to 11 remains stubbornly low, with just 48 per cent of kids in this age group having had at least one dose.
Tam said, may be a useful tool in the next phase of this pandemic fight — and future federal modelling on hospitalizations and deaths may have to be updated if and when this self-administered treatment is widely available for high-risk patients.
Clinical trial results suggest Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by an impressive 89 per cent compared to a placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19.
Health Canada is reviewing the product now, but a post-approval delivery schedule remains uncertain.
"There's a global supply constraint and it may not be in widespread use for a while. What we're trying to do at PHAC is convene experts to help provide some considerations as to how the initial supplies could be prioritized, much as we did with the initial batch of vaccines. That work is underway," Tam said.
Slim majority support government lockdowns, restrictions in response to Omicron .
The results suggest there is a growing level of fatigue among Canadians when it comes to lockdowns, including among those who have been fully vaccinated, said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque. “The actual support for vaccination is very high, the perceived efficacy is very high,” Bourque said. “Even among the vaccinated, they're saying: ‘You know what? I'm vaccinated, I've done all I could. Let's just live with it.’”The online survey of 1,547 Canadians was conducted between Jan. 5 and 7. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.