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What will Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave look like? Here’s what the experts, data say – Global News



The fourth wave of COVID-19 that public health experts have been warning about for months has arrived.

“The latest national surveillance data indicate that a fourth wave is underway in Canada and that cases are plotting along a strong resurgence trajectory,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, at a press conference Thursday.

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Read more:
Fourth wave of COVID-19 now underway in Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam says

However, experts say this wave might look a little different than previous ones. Here’s what could happen.

It’s already here

If the word of the chief public health officer of Canada isn’t enough, data from PHAC shows a clear rise in cases.

“We are seeing an increase in numbers, and it’s mostly amongst the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with the University of Calgary.

“Our hospitalizations are going up, at least in Alberta. ICU stays are going up as part of the numbers from our chief medical officer of health, and R0, which is how many people one person infects, is going up, which is all a sign of an outbreak or a wave.”

Delta will drive it

According to preliminary data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Delta variant has essentially taken over in Canada. It was only about eight per cent of cases during the week of May 9, 2021.

By July 11, it was 78 per cent — though the data remains incomplete, so this number could change.

However, public health experts have no doubt that Delta is driving the fourth wave.

“The Delta variant is a very highly contagious variant with a very high R0,” said Craig Janes, director of the school of public health sciences at the University of Waterloo.

“So it just means that we’re going to see probably this doubling (of case numbers) fairly quickly. With each week you’re going to see increasing cases.”

Click to play video: 'Concerns about holding federal election during 4th wave'

Concerns about holding federal election during 4th wave

Concerns about holding federal election during 4th wave

“Although we’re heading into the fourth wave driven by the Delta variant, the good news is that millions of Canadians have rolled up their sleeves to help build a strong wall of vaccination production,” Tam said Thursday.

The unvaccinated are most at risk

Experts agree that people who aren’t vaccinated — including children under 12 who are too young to be eligible for the shot — are most at risk in this wave of the pandemic.

“They call it the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated,’” Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious diseases specialist with the University of Toronto, told Global News earlier in the week.

“The vast majority of people that will get COVID will be the unvaccinated people. So, adults who continue to be unvaccinated or under-vaccinated and children under the age of 12 that are not eligible for vaccination right now.”

Click to play video: 'Beyond the facts: Why some Canadians remain vaccine hesitant'

Beyond the facts: Why some Canadians remain vaccine hesitant

Beyond the facts: Why some Canadians remain vaccine hesitant

With the combination of the Delta variant affecting children in a way that original strains of COVID-19 didn’t and lower vaccination rates in younger people, “We’re going to see a lot of younger people getting sick and winding up in the hospital,” Janes said.

Ontario recently started releasing data on hospitalization numbers that include vaccine status.

At first look, unvaccinated people represent 81 per cent of non-ICU hospital patients with COVID-19 in the province. Partially-vaccinated people represent 8 per cent and fully-vaccinated people are 11 per cent.

However, it’s worth remembering that most Ontarians — 64 per cent — are fully vaccinated right now. So, taking that into account, the unvaccinated are 15 times more likely to be in hospital with COVID-19 than people who are fully vaccinated: a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 compared to 0.1 per 100,000.

Read more:
How to reach the vaccine-hesitant – What experts, reluctant Canadians say

Alberta is showing similar figures. According to the government website, 92 per cent of hospitalized cases since January occurred in unvaccinated people, or in people who got sick less than two weeks after their first dose. Unvaccinated people account for the vast majority of people with COVID-19 currently in Alberta hospitals and ICUs.

“I think the picture has changed for adults because of vaccination and because of our fantastic rate of vaccination in Canada,” Constantinescu said.

Read more:
Doctors predict potential 4th wave of COVID-19 could hit Canada’s youth

“I think this has changed for adults to a huge extent. We’re not seeing the same hospitalization and death, but for children, it’s the same. So because our kids are unvaccinated, the only way our children are safe is if the numbers in our society are low.”

Hospitalizations might not match case numbers

Because of the high vaccination rate, epidemiologists suggest that we might not see hospitalizations stay as closely linked to case numbers as they were in the past.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 case numbers in Ontario surpass 500'

COVID-19 case numbers in Ontario surpass 500

COVID-19 case numbers in Ontario surpass 500

“You’ll see cases going up, but without the corresponding increase in hospitalization,” Janes said. He thinks that this is because older people, who are most likely to end up in the hospital, tend also to be the most-vaccinated group.

So even if younger people get infected, they likely won’t be going to hospital in the same numbers as older people were earlier in the pandemic, he thinks.

We might be seeing this now in the U.K., he said, where case numbers are rising but hospitalization isn’t at the same rate.

Public health measures need to maintained to control it

How do we stop the fourth wave? “Get vaccinated!” said Constantinescu.

“If you haven’t had the first dose, have the first dose,” she said, but, “the second dose is much more magical.”

Because children can’t be vaccinated, it’s especially important that those around them are, she said.

Aside from vaccination, she thinks that it’s a good idea to continue to wear masks indoors. “There’s no doubt in my mind that when indoor masking went down, COVID came up again,” she said.

Finally, if you’re feeling sick, even with just a sore throat, you should stay home, she said.

Click to play video: 'Federal election amid fourth wave & schools reopening? Dr. Bogoch shares reaction and the risks involved'

Federal election amid fourth wave & schools reopening? Dr. Bogoch shares reaction and the risks involved

Federal election amid fourth wave & schools reopening? Dr. Bogoch shares reaction and the risks involved

Over time, Janes said, “This pandemic may end in terms of waves of hospitalizations and some serious illness, but it’s not going to go away. It’ll just simply become endemic.”

Public health practitioners are most concerned about serious illness, he explained. “It’s really the spikes in hospitalization. I think when those level off, we don’t see those anymore, that’s when I think we can feel we can be somewhat confident that the pandemic is over.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ottawa Police Service superintendent arrested on sex charges



A senior Ottawa Police Service officer has been arrested on sex charges.

Ottawa police say Supt. Mark Patterson, who is 53, is charged with sexual assault, sex assault including abusing a position of trust, and breach of trust following an investigation by Ontario Provincial Police.

Police say in a release that the charges stem from allegations that occurred between December 2018 and May 2022 and involve one complainant.

The release says the Ottawa Police Service was made aware of the allegations in June 2022, Patterson was immediately suspended, and the OPP was called in to investigate.

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Patterson remains suspended and has been released on an undertaking.

Ottawa police Chief Eric Stubbs says the service takes all allegations of sexual assault and harassment very seriously.

“We have no tolerance of either,” Stubbs said in a release Thursday. “It is damaging and debilitating to all those impacted.

“The allegations and charges, in this case, are very serious and it is important that we respect the judicial process and for all the facts to be heard.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022

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Trudeau says Ottawa to work constructively with Alberta after sovereignty act passes



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Alberta’s controversial sovereignty act is a political tool for Premier Danielle Smith to pick a fight with the federal government.

“And I’m not interested in fighting with the Alberta government,” Trudeau said Thursday during the Assembly of First Nations special assembly in Ottawa.

The Alberta legislature passed the legislation overnight after stripping out a provision that would have granted the provincial cabinet extraordinary powers.

Smith described the legislation during a third and final reading of the bill as a resetting of the relationship between Trudeau and the federal government. The Opposition New Democrats have described it as “a hot mess express.”

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Trudeau said the relationship between Ottawa and the provinces is not like a parent to a child. Each has distinct areas of jurisdiction and responsibility, he said.

Provincial governments can move forward on laws the federal government doesn’t agree with, Trudeau said, but the remedy for that is through the courts.

Indigenous groups have called for the bill to be scrapped, saying they have not been consulted on the legislation or how it would affect Indigenous rights.

Trudeau said his government is also “extremely concerned” about what it represents “in terms of challenges to treaty rights that are fundamental in Canada and need to be respected.”

His response was different from what he said about the legislation earlier in the day. At that time, Trudeau said that the federal government is going to work as constructively as possible with Alberta.

Randy Boissonnault, a federal Liberal cabinet minister from Edmonton, said nobody has asked for this legislation and called it a “great distraction.”

There is concern about how it could compromise economic growth in the province, Boissonnault said.

The key to success is collaboration, he said.

“My appeal to the premier and to her colleagues is for us to work together.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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Quebec economic update: A lot of uncertainty in 2023, Girard says



Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard said Thursday the province’s economy is facing a lot of uncertainty going into 2023 as he presented his economic update, one that included help for low-income seniors in the face of stubborn inflation.

Girard said the risk of a recession is more apparent than ever, and he anticipates an economic slowdown for the province in 2023.

“Quebec is not in isolation. We are a small, open economy. We are part of the world economy … and the world economy is slowing,” Girard said.

“What I’m saying today is Quebec will not be spared. It’s undeniable that 2023 is a year that’s going to be more difficult than 2022.”

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Economic growth is not expected to exceed 0.7 per cent next year, compared to 3.1 per cent for 2022. The 2022-23 provincial budget had been more optimistic, anticipating growth of two per cent in 2023.

Quebec also expects job creation to slow next year, with the unemployment rate — which hit a historic low of 3.9 per cent last April — expected to rise as high as five per cent in 2023.

Girard said the deficit for the 2022-23 fiscal year will be $5.2 billion, less than the budget forecast of $6.5 billion, with a return to a balanced budget still expected in 2027-28.

Inflation has put pressure on many households but has allowed the province to reap substantial additional revenues, about $14 billion since March. In 2022-23, revenues are expected to increase by 4.3 per cent.

Girard said the government has decided to return those funds to Quebecers, announcing a key measure Thursday to help those 70 and older by increasing a refundable tax credit to $2,000 from $411, a recurring measure that will cost the province about $8 billion over five years.

“This idea behind the assistance to the low-income seniors over the age of 70 is recognizing that few have the capacity to do more against rising cost of living,” Girard said.

More than 1.1 million seniors will benefit from the measures, nearly 400,000 more than in the past. For 2022, the tax assistance for seniors could be up to $3,100 for people living alone or $2,200 per couple.

The seniors’ credit was the only new measure announced Thursday. It is in addition to other anti-inflation measures the Legault government has taken in recent months, including limiting government fee increases and sending cheques of between $400 and $600 for Quebecers who make under $100,000 per year.

Girard, a banker by profession, said in his 30-year career he hasn’t seen inflation so high, with annual rates hitting between six and seven per cent.

Quebec is no longer ruling out a recession in 2023, which could mean a one per cent decline of the economy before it rebounds in 2024. Girard said if that happens, the government has set aside $8 billion to use for supports as needed. Girard told a news conference the “most probable” scenario is weak economic growth as opposed to a recession.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal

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