Omicron’s Worst Case Could See Hospitals Overwhelmed, New COVID Modeling Says

Omicron seems to spread more easily than the Delta variant; there is a higher risk of re-infection, as well as infection of those vaccinated. Modeling shows an increase in cases on Vancouver Island, due to UVic outbreaks and a religious rally.

If British Columbians do not take action to protect themselves from the more highly transmissible Omicron variant, COVID-19 cases in the province could exceed 2,000 per day by the end of December, and hospitals could be overwhelmed two weeks later, according to new pandemic modeling.

Omicron appears to spread more easily than the currently dominant Delta variant and increases the risk of re-infection in people previously tested positive for COVID-19, as well as infection in fully vaccinated people, the provincial health worker said Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“We don’t yet know if Omicron will be able to escape the new defenses that are given by vaccination,” Henry said. “What we do know is that as cases increase, so does the percentage of people who end up needing hospital care.

“This is more than ever the moment when we have to hold the line. We have to keep doing these things that we know to work.

In the worst case, Omicron would overtake the Delta variant as the dominant strain in British Columbia, with up to three times the transmission and ability to evade immunity, and hospitalizations matching a previous daily record. from 75 Jan. 10.

In another possible scenario, Omicron could be just as serious or less serious than Delta. The scenarios do not take into account booster injections, which will reduce the transmission and severity of the disease.

There is “very limited” community transmission of Omicron in British Columbia, so “it’s too early to say” if and when it will overtake the Delta variant, Henry said, adding that he hoped the booster injections would slow down Omicron’s pace.

As of Monday, 44 cases of the Omicron variant had been reported in British Columbia, including five on Vancouver Island. Four of the cases are linked to off-campus gatherings at the University of Victoria that resulted in an outbreak that has infected at least 124 people.

Henry said the Omicron cases here are associated with a UVic Vikes rugby team that played in the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship Nov. 24-28 at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

The UVic outbreak was caused by the Delta variant, but the tournament spread Omicron to college communities across the country, Henry said. More cases are being tested and should be confirmed, she said.

Modeling released Tuesday shows an increase in COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island, triggered by outbreaks at the University of Victoria as well as a religious rally in the northern part of the island. The virus’s reproduction rate – how many people an HIV-positive person transmits the virus to – is now higher than one on the island, which requires special attention, Henry said.

Fraser Health, which leads the number of daily cases, has a reproduction rate of less than one.

Of 519 new cases of COVID-19 reported in British Columbia on Tuesday, 123 were at Island Health. There are now 804 active cases on the island and public health is seeing a greater spread of the Delta-plus variant, also known as AY 4, in the island’s health region, Henry said.

Data from November and December across British Columbia shows that unvaccinated people are seven times more likely than those with two doses of a vaccine to contract COVID-19. The unvaccinated are 30 times more likely to be hospitalized and 50 times more likely to need intensive care.

Eighty-eight percent of people 12 years and older in British Columbia are fully immunized and just over 610,000 boosters have been given.

Of the approximately 350,000 children in the 5-11 age group eligible for a low-dose COVID pediatric vaccine, 146,426 are registered and 73,457 have been vaccinated “but we need to increase those numbers,” Henry said. She cited 500 children in this age group infected with COVID-19 every week in the province.

Parents can register their children through getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca or by calling 1-833-838-2323.

The 44 people infected with the Omicron variant in British Columbia as of December 13 were between five and 72 years old, with a median age of 33. None are hospitalized, likely because those infected are mostly young and vaccinated, Henry said.

Henry advises people to keep gatherings small now and during the holiday season.

“Think back to those holidays, where you want to be with groups of people you might not know. It’s a risky thing right now. We need people to take a step back.

Even among highly vaccinated populations, large gatherings are risky, Henry said, citing the 124 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 at UVic.

Henry urged those who gather in limited numbers with close family and friends inside to make sure the area is well ventilated – creaking the windows will help, she said.

Anyone five years of age and over is required to wear a mask in indoor public places, vaccination is mandatory in many workplaces, proof of vaccination is required for all non-essential indoor venues and events, and venues worship centers have limited capacity if all worshipers aren’t vaccinated.

At UVic, where exams have been moved online due to the outbreak, students will soon have access to quick COVID tests to take every other day for 10 days.

While all of the original cases of Omicron in British Columbia were associated with travel, less than half are now travel-related.

The 20 Omicron travel-related cases involved multiple countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Germany, Portugal and the United States.

Seven of 44 Omicron cases as of December 12 were unvaccinated, including two children under 11. The majority of cases, 24, are in the Fraser Health Authority.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com


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