By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – As Canada continues to move through the fifth wave of COVID-19, the strain felt by the country is exponential as provinces report record-breaking case amounts and struggle to keep infrastructure stable amid the lightning-fast rise of the omicron variant.
So far, Canada has seen over 2 million confirmed COVID cases and over 30 thousand deaths.
For example, Ontario reported Jan. 7 that 2,472 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 — the highest amount of hospitalizations recorded by the province since the beginning of the pandemic.
Police forces in Victoria and Winnipeg declared states of emergency due to staffing shortages; Toronto is preparing for 50 to 60 per cent transmissibility rates; and Ontario has ceased all non-urgent surgeries due to shortages on health care workers.
However, the infrastructure issues faced by the aforementioned provinces are not isolated incidents, as Alberta has been projected to reach record-high hospitalizations in the next few weeks as well.
Leaked data from Alberta Health Services’ COVID-19 early warning system suggest that, best-case scenario: non-ICU hospitalizations will double within two weeks. This is due to the Omicron variant’s increased transmissibility-rate compared to other strains of COVID-19.
AHS released a statement to CBC, confirming and explaining the projections, ”AHS is continually monitoring and planning for all eventualities to ensure we can continue to care for patients, and keep Albertans safe.
“Plans are in place to increase acute care capacity, with appropriate staffing and resources should it be needed. The current projected need can be met.”
Alberta Health statistics show the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province has increased by 43 per cent since Dec. 29. Furthermore, the provincial ICU capacity (including additional surge beds) is now at 73 per cent — without the additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be at 102 per cent.
Alberta’s positivity rate on Friday was also 38 per cent, which is much higher than what the province experienced in earlier waves.
Fortunately, the leaked data also says that worst-case scenario: ICUs in the province could reach a mere 36 people. This is because the Omicron variant tends to be less severe than other forms of COVID-19.
Despite the huge presence of the Omicron variant, data suggests that the fifth wave will end as fast as it began.
For example, South Africa — where Omicron was initially identified — has already seen their COVID cases drop greatly from the December peak.
And so because the latest variant entered Canada much later, the data says that the country’s cases will most likely peak in mid-January and drop in February.
Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist and professor at the University of Toronto, said of the variant, “So far, the evidence suggests that this will be a very quick wave, because it’s infecting so many people so quickly.”
“But these are very different populations we’re talking about here, so I hesitate to compare the two and say (southern Africa) points to what Canada and others will see.”