During the “intense activity” expected in the weeks ahead, COVID-19 measures must be maintained to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, Canada’s federal health agency continues to warn.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam and her deputy, Howard Njoo, released new predictions from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on Friday of COVID in Canada.
Canadian hospitals are typically under extra pressure in winter, but the highly transmissible Omicron — currently the most prominent variant of COVID in Canada — is straining them further, especially with staff off sick, Tam told reporters in Ottawa.
To protect health-care workers, provinces are implementing measures to reduce contact in the population, she said.
“It’s not just about getting enough beds; it’s about getting enough health-care workers,” Tam said.
Canada’s national positivity rate is 28 per cent, meaning more than one in four tests are positive. But because of a widespread shortage of tests, and staff to administer them, some people with symptoms are waiting weeks for their test results, or not getting tested at all.
The number of hospitalizations a day reached 6,779 this week — a figure that’s quadrupled since December — with 884 patients needing critical-care beds. An average of 82 people are dying every day.
The new modelling suggests the current wave will peak this month at 170,000 to 300,000 daily infections.
Due to the large volume of cases, more people are getting seriously ill from Omicron. This is most evident in Ontario and Quebec, where the variant first surged, Tam said.
In response, Ontario is delaying the reopening of schools by a week and banning indoor dining again, while Quebec reinstated a nightly curfew, which has since been removed in some parts of the province.
To prepare for the influx, hospitals in many jurisdictions are delaying procedures and adding beds, Tam said.
And to help hospitals prepare, jurisdictions are sharing information, such as the fact that patients with Omicron don’t need to be hospitalized for as long as patients who had the Delta variant, she said.
Tam acknowledged the complication of hospitals having to determine whether a patient with a confirmed case of COVID is being admitted for that reason or for something else.
Canadians who got COVID after Dec. 20 most likely had Omicron, she added.
Tam also said she’s optimistic that cases and hospitalizations in Canada will peak soon, but warns that even the downside of the curve will strain the health system because of the large volume of cases.