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B.C.’s Omicron wave following world pattern of peaking, declining

Most severe illness still from Delta variant of COVID-19
Tracking of COVID-19 case spread in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions shows similar pattern to that of other urban regions that are ahead of B.C. in the spread of the Omicron variant. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)

B.C.’s fifth wave of COVID-19 infection has likely peaked, and hospital admissions are being closely tracked with the expectation they will also begin to decline as early as next week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday.

Data presented Friday show B.C. following a similar pattern as other urban areas around the world, including London and New York City, where the latest variant has travelled quickly and begun running out of people to infect.

“We probably reached our peak last weekend,” Henry said Jan. 14. “Now we’re confident that we’re in a downward trajectory.”

Testing of virus concentrations in urban wastewater provides a second indication, which is not dependent on individual test results that haven’t been able to keep up. Wastewater also shows a peak and decline in community infection during January. The spread of Omicron has been mostly in the Fraser, Vancouver Coastal health regions, and on southern Vancouver Island where its spread was first detected in B.C. after a rugby tournament in Ontario attended by a Victoria team.

The latest data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control show hospitalization rates are higher for unvaccinated people in all age groups, particularly people aged 70 and older. While most of the serious illness in B.C. is still related to the Delta variant, Omicron is still a risk that increases with age.

“If you are over 70 and you haven’t had your booster dose yet, you need it and you need it now,” Henry said.

Henry also addressed the common perception that an increase in infections among vaccinated people is a sign that vaccines aren’t effective against the Omicron variant. Analysis shows that with nearly 90 per cent of B.C. adults double vaccinated, the small share of unvaccinated people is still producing most of the illness.

Gyms, bars and night clubs remain closed as high-risk locations for virus transmission, and capacity limits are in place for indoor events. Henry said that situation is being monitored as the fifth wave continues to decline.

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