As British Columbia ends mask mandates and other pandemic measures, an independent group of experts warned Thursday the province could face a second, smaller Omicron wave within months.
The BC COVID-19 Modelling Group, composed of independent experts and academics, urged the government to authorize fourth vaccine doses for high-risk people and improve ventilation for essential services to blunt a potential sixth wave fuelled by the even more transmissible BA.2 sub-variant.
“With Canada having moved away from mask requirements and other mandated safety measures, there is a need to create safer indoor spaces, especially for those at higher risk,” the group’s report said.
COVID-19 cases among those 70-plus have dropped to less than a fifth of the peak of Omicron in January, according to the new report.
The drop in cases has been even more pronounced among younger age groups, but is difficult to quantify because most under 70 are no longer eligible for PCR testing.
But while B.C. will likely see short-term stability in case levels, the modelling group warns waning immunity from booster doses could see the BA.2 sub-variant fuel another Omicron wave nearing 1,500 daily reported cases by the end of April.
Omicron’s crest saw 4,078 daily cases reported on Dec. 31.
“The COVID-19 trajectory in B.C. over the next month depends strongly on how fast waning occurs and whether people continue to abide by safety measures, even if they are no longer required,” the report said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that B.C. remains vulnerable to future variants that may transmit more easily or evade protection afforded by vaccines.
“Those are the things that we don’t yet know,” she said as she announced the end of the mask mandate March 10.
More than half of cases are now caused by the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, whose share of daily cases rose steadily through February and has now stabilized, Canada-wide data shows.
The risks of another wave are mitigated by the immunity British Columbians have from vaccination or previous infection, Henry and the group agree.
But they remain a concern for people who are considered high risk, including those over 70 and who are immunocompromised. The vast majority of high-risk and older people received their boosters before Dec. 31, almost three months ago.
According to reports from the United Kingdom and B.C.’s own figures, people who are unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of Omicron than those who are vaccinated.
But three to four months after a booster shot, that protection is cut in half.
Booster efficacy against infection from Omicron also drops sharply in the same timeframe.
“Many people in B.C., especially those most susceptible to severe health impacts of COVID-19, received boosters more than three months ago and are now experiencing declining levels of protection,” said the report.
The group recommended B.C. follow advice from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization to authorize a fourth dose for immunocompromised individuals three months after their third dose.
“The option of a fourth dose, 3 to 4 months following a third booster dose, would reduce hospitalization risks for those most susceptible to severe COVID-19 reaction,” the report said.
Ultimately, the group warned, the impacts of the BA.2 sub-variant will be determined by how many people continue to mask, limit gatherings and how quickly booster immunity wanes or is bolstered by fourth doses.
“While the COVID-19 situation is good and improving, B.C. faces a number of short-term risks,” the report said.
The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life
Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.
That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.
What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?
Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.
Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.
Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations
As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.
Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:
- Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
- Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
- Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.
Determining a Fair Payment Plan
Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.
Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.
Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers
When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:
- Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
- Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
- Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
- Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.
Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.
Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.
Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home
THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.
The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.
No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.
Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.
Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister
Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.
Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.
“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”
Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.
“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.
LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.
“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.
The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.
LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.
From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.
On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.
“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.
“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.
She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.
Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.
LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.
“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.
–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News
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