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Transmission of Omicron is decreasing in British Columbia, modeling shows – but hospitalizations have yet to peak

COVID-19 modeling released by the BC government shows the latest wave of the pandemic, powered by the Omicron variant, may have peaked in parts of the province – but British Columbians are not still off the hook.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presented the latest modeling projections at a news conference on Friday. She says the Omicron wave has spread faster than previous ones and health officials believe the peak of the last wave has already been reached.

The data shows that while community transmission is trending down in most health regions, there is likely to be an increase in hospitalizations over the next week or two.

This, according to Henry, is due to a lag between the peak of community transmission and the peak of hospitalizations during the Omicron wave, as evidenced by other parts of the country like Ontario and Quebec where the variant arrived earlier. .

“We think we hit the peak of community transmission in British Columbia probably last weekend,” Henry said.

The latest COVID-19 modeling shows that community transmission of the Omicron variant has likely already peaked in the Lower Mainland. (British Columbia Ministry of Health)

She said the variant arrived in Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and Island Health areas first and community spread is now starting to slow in those areas. Henry expects the Northern Health and Interior Health regions to follow suit shortly, as the variant has taken longer to reach those areas.

British Columbia health officials also recently looked at sewage samples that Henry says support the prediction that Omicron transmission likely peaked in the Lower Mainland in the first week. of January.

WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why health officials think hospital admissions are about to drop:

Transmission of Omicron is decreasing in British Columbia, modeling shows – but hospitalizations have yet to peak

COVID-19 hospital admissions expected to peak next week, says Dr Henry

BC’s provincial health officer says modeling suggests daily hospital admissions are expected to peak between January 15 and 22, depending on the rate of community transmission. 1:10

On Thursday, two weeks into January, the province reported more people hospitalized than at any other time during the pandemic, showing the lag between community spread and hospital admission.

As of Thursday, 534 people in British Columbia were hospitalized with COVID-19 — more than at any other time during the pandemic — including 102 in intensive care, as the province reported seven more deaths from the disease.

Who’s in the hospital?

Henry said there had been a “significant increase” in the number of people aged 70 and over being admitted to hospital in January, largely due to the Omicron variant, although Delta also continued to circulate in Province.

The increase is concerning, Henry said, because age is still the strongest risk factor for illness or death from COVID.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are still 53,000 people over the age of 70 who have received an invitation to book a booster but have yet to do so.

Transmission of Omicron is decreasing in British Columbia, modeling shows – but hospitalizations have yet to peak
Henry says a person is 12 times more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19 if they are not vaccinated. (British Columbia Ministry of Health)

“Now is the time,” he said, and urged anyone who has not been vaccinated to get vaccinated now.

According to Henry, 70% of people in intensive care this month, mostly infected with the Omicron variant, were unvaccinated and two-thirds of people who died in 2022 were unimmunized. About 17% of British Columbians are still unvaccinated.

Henry also noted a worrying trend in the number of young people admitted to hospital this year so far, including nine admissions this week for children under the age of four who are too young to be vaccinated.

Health care capacity issues

“It’s an extremely challenging time,” Dix said of Omicron’s impact on health care in the province.

The projected peak in hospitalizations comes when roughly double the number of healthcare workers are reporting themselves sick.

Henry said the data shows the projected spike in hospitalizations will run from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22.

“The peak is coming,” she said.

In December, a report by an independent COVID-19 modeling group said hospitalizations from the Omicron-fueled fifth wave in British Columbia would reach unprecedented highs around mid-January.

The latest information shows that Omicron replaced the Delta variant as the main driver of infections in the community and in hospitals in less than six weeks, which is consistent with data from around the world.