Federal officials are warning Canada could be on the brink of a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant if the country opens too fast before enough people have been vaccinated.
Long-term forecasts released Friday indicate a hasty reopening could lead to a sharp resurgence of the virus by the end of summer, Canada’s chief public health officer said as provinces including Alberta continued to ease restrictions.
Dr. Theresa Tam also urged younger adults to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible, noting they continue to lag among age groups but are associated with highest rates of disease transmission.
While robust vaccination rates are already credited with dropping hospitalizations and deaths, she said inoculations must rise further to avoid renewed strain on hospitals and the health-care system.
“Almost 6.3 million people are not yet vaccinated with a first dose … plus over five million people have not received the second dose,” Tam told a news briefing in Ottawa.
“This ‘call for arms’ is to shoot for the stars in vaccination coverage. With just over five weeks until Labour Day in Canada, this time is crucial for building up protection before we gather in schools, colleges, university and workplaces this fall.”
As of last Saturday, 89 per cent of seniors aged 70 or older had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the government’s figures.
But only 46 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 29 were fully vaccinated, as were 54 per cent of those aged 30 to 39.
Tam said vaccine coverage must be more than 80 per cent in all age groups to establish better protection.
She said the more infectious Delta variant is expected to gain steam among younger unvaccinated people, fueling a resurgence that could overwhelm health-care capacity if personal contacts also rise.
Current COVID-19 case counts have plummeted by 93 per cent since the peak of the third wave, for an average of 640 new infections being reported daily over the past seven days, Tam said.
But there are early signs of epidemic growth in some parts of the country, said Tam, predicting cases will rise further as public health measures ease.
Deputy chief public health officer Howard Njoo added that Canada’s robust vaccination rate means any uptick in infections would likely not correspond to a marked rise in deaths and hospitalizations, noting “it’s not the same as before.”
Nevertheless, he warned that millions of unvaccinated Canadians “are really at risk of serious outcomes,” and asked: “What are you waiting for?”
The warnings come as a chorus of health experts express concerns about Alberta’s decision earlier this week to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19, or who have been in close contact with someone who has.
Tam reiterated the importance of quarantines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, urging Albertans to continue to isolate, get tested and inform their close contacts even if it is no longer required.
There are hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people in Alberta, Tam said, and there’s the potential for large COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks.
“The bottom line is get vaccinated. There’s still a ways to go in Alberta.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2021.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Vancouver Island opens up five ICU beds for COVID-19 patients from Northern Health region – Victoria Buzz
During a COVID-19 press conference today, BC health officials announced that in order to prevent an overrun ICU in the Northern Health region, they would be opening five ICU beds on Vancouver Island and ten beds in the Lower Mainland.
Also during the conference, on whether Northern BC COVID-19 response could end up similar to what is happening in Alberta, Dr. Bonnie Henry said that BC is not at the same point as our neighbours to the east.
Henry also noted that due to BC’s current COVID-19 response, the province would not be able to handle taking on Alberta residents into their ICU care.
“We are not at a breaking point [like Alberta]. We are in a different place. But sadly, as a country, especially in BC, we cannot take people from Alberta into our [BC’s] ICU care,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
This begs the question of where Vancouver Island health services are at.
Earlier this month, Victoria Buzz reported a story about a father pleading for people to get vaccinated after his son was waiting for an ICU bed at the Royal Jubilee Hospital ICU due to what he saw was overrun with COVID-19 cases.
“He [Joel] is in a coma, and they’ve tried bringing him out. He’s still in CCU, and he’s on a ventilator. He’s just waiting for a bed in the ICU,” Roberts said.
“Before he had his episode, I felt that yes, people need to get vaccinated. But this has made that sentiment stronger. Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about everyone else.”
Victoria Buzz spoke to Island Health to get a better grasp of how Vancouver Island has been handling this fourth wave of the pandemic, and how ICUs in Victoria are holding up.
A representative for Island Health confirmed that they are seeing an increasing impact on hospitals and critical care units amidst the fourth wave.
They said that since the beginning of the pandemic, Royal Jubilee, Victoria General, and Nanaimo Regional General hospitals were the core facilities supporting COVID-19 patients.
Despite occupancy varying day-to-day, last week’s average occupancy of critical care beds was 73%, according to Island Health. In comparison, Alberta’s ICU capacity is 88%.
In order to support additional critical care needs beyond base capacity Island Health has now implemented surge critical care beds and an inpatient unit at Victoria General Hospital for non-critical care patients.
In a statement to Victoria Buzz, Island Health expressed their willingness to do what they can to support the province, but also acknowledged what British Columbians could do as well: get vaccinated.
“In addition to supporting the increasing critical care needs of Vancouver Island residents, we have supported over a dozen critical care patients from other health authorities,” the Island Health representative told Victoria Buzz.
“Our health-care teams need every eligible resident of Island Health to get vaccinated today if they haven’t already, and follow public health guidance, in order to protect our health-care system and our teams.”
As of this publication, 87% of all eligible British Columbians have been vaccinated and there are currently 540 active cases on Vancouver Island.
Of the 353 British Columbians who have been hospitalized from September 6th to September 19th due to COVID-19, 279 (79%) were unvaccinated.
Quebec man punches nurse in face for giving wife COVID-19 vaccine – Campbell River Mirror
Police in Quebec say they are looking for a man who is alleged to have repeatedly punched a nurse in the face because he was angry she had vaccinated his wife against COVID-19.
Police say a man between the ages of 30 and 45 approached the nurse on Monday morning at a pharmacy in Sherbrooke, Que., about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
They say he accused the nurse of vaccinating his wife against her consent and repeatedly punched the nurse before leaving the store.
Police say the nurse had to be treated in hospital for serious injuries to her face.
Quebec’s order of nurses tweeted today that the alleged assault was unacceptable and wished the nurse a full recovery.
Sherbrooke police are asking for the public’s help in finding the assailant, who they say has short dark hair, dark eyes, thick eyebrows and a tattoo resembling a cross on his hand.
—The Canadian Press
Sask. children's hospital ICU accepts adults in COVID-19 surge plan – CTV News Saskatoon
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is shuttling some adult intensive care patients to the province’s children’s hospital in the face of surging COVID-19 cases.
“Critical care capacity is under strain and all avenues of support need to be explored to so we can continue to care for extremely ill patients,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said in a news release.
Adult patients requiring an ICU bed will be considered for admission to Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, according to the health authority.
Patients are selected through a clinical review by the adult and pediatric critical care physicians.
Pediatric patients will continue to be prioritized for critical care at the hospital’s PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and no pediatric patients will be displaced, according to the SHA.
The change is effective immediately and is part of a larger SHA surge plan announced Sept. 17 to prepare for a growing number of COVID patients throughout the health system.
The PICU will be able to surge to 18 critical care beds, including six additional flex beds for both pediatric and selected adult patients.
Staffing plans have been developed and continue to be secured for the additional beds, much of which will come through service slowdowns.
The SHA’s normal (ICU) capacity is 79 beds. To increase ICU capacity, the SHA has also added 22 surge beds.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 78 of the 101 available ICU beds were full and two adult COVID infectious patients had been admitted to JPCH.
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