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Omicron may have reached plateau as number of active cases drop

The Omicron variant is still spreading in the community, but the region’s reported COVID case numbers are starting to drop. At midweek, there were some 2,400 active cases, down significantly from 4,100 a week earlier.

However, Waterloo Region public health is also reporting that may be an underestimate of true case numbers due to issues with the availability of testing.

“There is some indication we may be reaching a plateau – prevention remains key. We need to continue to exert caution,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang during the region’s weekly pandemic briefing January 21.

Local hospitals are still seeing high levels of admissions of unvaccinated residents with COVID-19 and are struggling to keep up.

“Omicron spreads easily and even though it is milder than Delta, due to the exceptionally high number of cases there is a record number of people requiring hospital care,” said Wang. “The number of outbreaks in our high-risk settings remains very high. Our hospitals are facing their most challenging times yet. Hospitals have seen a great proportion of unvaccinated individuals among those who have been admitted for COVID related illness and those who have arrived with COVID along with their primary medical issue.”

The region is encouraging residents to get vaccinated, whether for the first, second or third time, noting that unvaccinated individuals are taking up the majority of hospital beds in the region.

“If you are over the age of 50, immunocompromised or pregnant, please get a booster dose as soon as you can. Increasing our community immunity through vaccination will allow us to keep schools opened, to begin loosening restrictions in a stepwise manner and allow hospitals to resume cancelled procedures and surgeries as soon as they are able to,” said Wang.

Grand River Hospital, for instance, last week reported being close to full capacity and had patients waiting in the emergency department with no beds to put them in.

“Today we are facing an unprecedented level of pressure across our hospital,” said CEO Ron Gagnon in a release. “Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve added 146 additional beds and today, all but one is filled. We are now at the point where we may need to start transferring patients out of our hospital for care, and it’s a point we never wanted to reach. We also know that this is not an easy or ready fix, as many hospitals in the region and across the province are in the same situation.”

At midweek the region reported 77 active outbreaks, with 44.2 per cent in congregate settings, 43.2 per cent in long term care and 12.6 per cent in hospitals. The region has seen 342 fatalities related to the virus since the pandemic began, up 18 in the past seven days.

“Vaccines save lives, and they keep people out of the hospitals. With the strain on our hospitals, we need to have the protection of vaccines to prevent serious illness from COVID,” said the director of the regional task force for vaccine rollout, Vickie Murray, as part of the COVID update.

Murray said the region will begin giving fourth doses for vulnerable, long-term care and retirement home residents in the coming weeks.

Waterloo Region is reporting 87.8 per cent of eligible residents 5 and older have their first dose and 82.3 per cent have been fully inoculated. More than 264,000 third doses have been given to residents. At midweek 52.7 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 had their first COVID vaccine and 14.2 per cent had been fully vaccinated.

“If you have symptoms, you should consider that its COVID and you should self isolate for five days if you’ve been double vaxxed or under the age of 12. For those that haven’t had at least two doses or are immunocompromised their isolation period should be 10 days,” noted Wang.

As with the region, the number of cases has dropped in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph,  with 815 active cases, down from 1,140 seven days earlier. There have been 136 fatalities associated with the virus, three in the past week.

Public health there reports 84.1 per cent of eligible residents have been fully inoculated, with 46.5 having had a booster shot.

The province continues to see growth in the total number of cases, with the tally now at 1,005,000, of which 932,250 have been resolved (92.8 per cent). There have been some 11,068 deaths since the pandemic began, representing a mortality rate of 1.1 per cent.

Some 4,00- people are currently hospitalized in Ontario, 594 in ICU.

The latest numbers from Health Canada show 270,000 active cases nationwide, down from 331,000. The cumulative total of confirmed cases now stands at 2,947, 179, with 32,786 related deaths, a mortality rate of 1.1 per cent. Nationally, 83.4 per cent of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of vaccine, with 77.5 per cent fully vaccinated.

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