Ontario Independent

Saturday, December 9, 2023

The number of COVID-19 infections is rising, and omicron may quadruple daily case counts

Infections with COVID-19 are on the rise, and omicron could quadruple

Key takeaways:

  • As per the new PHAC modeling released today, the number of COVID-19 cases could skyrocket in the coming weeks.
  • If the current transmission rate is maintained, cases are expected to double in January, to between 6,000 and 7,000 per day. 

As the nation deals with yet another wave of delta infections and the highly transmissible omicron variant, new modeling released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests that the number of COVID-19 cases may increase dramatically in the coming weeks.

While the exact number of cases reported is unknown, PHAC believes that an increase from the current level of over 3,300 cases per day is likely due to a “gradual but steady increase” in infections in Canada.

The national “rT” metric, which measures the average number of people infected by one infected person, has now surpassed one. That means the pandemic has resumed its upward trajectory.

PHAC stated that cases could quadruple to 12,000 per day in January if “omicron successfully establishes” and current levels of transmission are maintained, citing early findings from South Africa, where Omicron was first identified and case counts have skyrocketed.

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According to PHAC, this resurgence could be fueled by Omicron’s “greater transmissibility” and the possibility of “reduced protection from prior infection/vaccination,” according to PHAC. The efficacy of the current COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron is still being evaluated.

As of December 9, 87 confirmed omicron cases had been reported in seven Canadian jurisdictions. To date, all cases of Omicron reported in Canada have been asymptomatic or mild.

Even if Omicron isn’t widely distributed, PHAC modeling suggests that Canada may face another wave of delta cases in the coming year.

If the current transmission rate is maintained, cases are expected to double in January, to between 6,000 and 7,000 per day. According to the PHAC, a delta-driven wave of around 12,000 cases per day could occur if transmission levels rise.

While the modeling is alarming, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo says people should not panic.

“We must all show respect for the virus. It’s a formidable adversary that’s evolving as we fight it, “he stated

“We must respect it while remaining calm and unconcerned. We now have many tools and a much better understanding of the virus. Vaccines are known to protect against serious illness.”

COVID-19 infections are on the rise and omicron could supercharge daily  case counts, federal modelling says | Radio-Canada.ca
Infections with COVID-19 are on the rise, and omicron could quadruple daily case counts. Image from CBC News

New outbreaks in schools have been reported.

Canadians aged 5 to 11 are currently the most likely to contract COVID-19 due to low vaccine coverage in this demographic. Children aged 5 to 11 have a case rate of more than 20 per 100,000 people, four times higher than any other age group.

In the last few weeks, hundreds of new COVID outbreaks have been reported in schools and child care centers across the country, raising the infection rate among children under 12.

COVID-19 cases in kids usually do not involve severe disease. To date, PHAC stated, there have been around 380,000 reported cases in kids and youths up to 19 years of age, with less than 1 percent involving severe disease.

According to PHAC, the best way to slow the spread of the virus is to increase the immunization campaign for children aged 5 to 11 and roll out third doses for other age groups.

Data from the PHAC show how effective the COVID-19 shots have been in keeping people out of the hospital. Unvaccinated people aged 12 to 59 were 32 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus than those who had received 2 dose.

Unvaccinated people over the age of 60 are 16 times more likely to end up in the hospital than fully vaccinated people. This is encouraging because older people are more likely to have a weakened immune response to vaccinations.

Last week NACI strongly recommended that all Canadians over 50 and other vulnerable groups like health care workers, Indigenous peoples, and those living in congregate care settings get a booster shot six months after their second dose. It also recommends that people between 18 and 49 get the third dose if they are eligible.

Modeling suggests that hospital capacity can be manageable if booster shots are widely available and Canadian children receive them. According to the PHAC, if the booster shot campaign or the vaccination rollout for children aged 5 to 11 slows, the nation’s hospitals will likely be overcrowded in the coming year.

“While there is still a lot of uncertainty about omicron’s ability to evade immunity and also increase severity,” Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said, “rapid resurgence in cases could potentially strain our still fragile health-care system.”

“Taking public health advice, finishing our primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, getting a booster dose when eligible, and maintaining basic personal precautions — such as wearing a well-fitted, well-constructed face mask, avoiding crowding, and improving ventilation and other layers of protection — continues to be our best and safest way forward.”

Tam believes that if Canadians limit their guest list to fully vaccinated people, they can celebrate Christmas safely. She also advised keeping gatherings to a minimum.

“Caution is still advised as we approach the holidays and the coming weeks. But, when you consider the risks to you and your family, we can be thankful that vaccines have improved our protection, “Tam stated.

Source: CDC News

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